But why now? After all, people have always sought happiness!
“Very little is needed to make a happy life.
It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
The Ultimate Currency
Perhaps the main reason for this upswing of interest is a dawning realisation that what we thought makes us happy doesn’t. In Happiness: Lessons From A New Science, Richard Layard wrote:
“There is a paradox at the heart of our lives.
Most people want more income and strive for it.
Yet as Western societies have got richer their people have become no happier.”
Psychologist and Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman, echoes this observation, writing that, “The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory”; while Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, asserts that this causes us to “live in the shadow of a great lie.”
Not So Fluffy Now
Unhappy people suffer in many more ways than just feeling blue. Research shows that happy individuals fare better in virtually all areas of their personal lives; they also perform better at work. So the personal drive for happiness has now coincided with a societal need for people who are happier, and are therefore more productive.
It’s a similar overlap of interests that has brought soft skills out of the shadows recently too. Like happiness, soft skills were firmly placed in the personal realm, and therefore sidelined by business and government policy. But research is mounting; it’s estimated that by 2020 over half a million UK workers will be held back by a lack of soft skills, and these deficits will cost the UK £8.4 billion a year. Statistics like this cause priorities to change.
“Soft skills are an asset that neither employers nor employees can ignore.”
James Caan MBE
I’ve been a soft skills advocate since 2000, helping individuals and organisations shift to new, more productive and positive ways of living and working by harnessing the benefits of these skills. I’ve noticed that one of the by-products of developing soft skills – perhaps the most important one – is increased happiness.
What Is Happiness?
According to Stanford University professor Jennifer Aaker, there are as many definitions of happiness as there are studies of happiness, with the commonly accepted definitions changing every few years. I used a favourite definition of mine in the previous post:
“Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing,
not a mere pleasurable feeling or fleeting emotion
but an optimal state of being”
And I think that one of the shortest and sweetest definitions is…
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
…while this is one of the funniest:
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
Happiness Is Not A Smiley Face
In Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar makes the important observation that, “A person can endure emotional pain at times and still be happy overall.”
And that’s key.
Happiness isn’t about being constantly perky.
Or about only looking on the bright side.
Nor is it about having to always ‘think positive’.
In fact, some say that the ‘doomed if you don’t’ attitude to positive thinking, promoted throughout the self-help industry, has played its part in causing unhappiness.
“I would like to see more smiles, more laughter, more hugs, more happiness…
and the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.”
The Soft Skills Way To Happiness
So the approach I’m sharing with you is dogma-free and practical. It involves looking at the barriers, the ‘negative’ some might say, in order to dissolve them.
And that’s the way to happiness!
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
In Happiness is Go! Part 2 we’ll:
- Look at Backward Focus soft skills
- Learn how to dissolve the barrier that blocks those skills
- See the impact this has on happiness
- Develop ideas for building happiness-habits
Meanwhile I’ll leave you with this thought:
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
Read Happiness is Go! Part 2…
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