16 Nov 15 Principles for a happier life…
As I came back from my one year of travel and volunteering, it took many months to really see what came out of it. Often it’s easy to believe that a long journey can change you – especially when you are in such different places like India or Nepal. But I have discovered that for any long journey, the fruit you will harvest will take some time to grow, ripen and be ready for tasting. You definitely see some immediate changes but what really sticks? What remains when you are back in your “old world?” What true, deep change has taken place, the type of change that sustains itself over months and years?
A few weeks ago, I was invited to talk in front of over 100 entrepreneurs and CEOs at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. The subject of the talk was “Success, Happiness, Life Purpose; What does it takes to be a true Leader?” I won’t talk here about true leadership (though I will in a future post), but more about elements relating to Happiness, Life Purpose, and Life Success (I wrote about “Why you might not really be happy” in the past). I had to take a hard and objective look to see what the key elements of my journey were that could serve and help others on their path.
So here is an extract of that presentation where I will dive into 15 principles that I use in my coaching work and which I believe you can apply for work and for life-related purposes. Those principles have guided me towards a more fulfilling life in the last 24 months. I hope you find them useful and see how transformative they can be in your own life.
1 – Less is more
Living with less brings an instantaneous feeling of lightness and freedom. I started to explore this years ago while becoming interested in the minimalism movement. I discovered the work of “The Minimalist” and started to remove one object from my home on a daily basis. I often got the question of whether I missed anything I discard. You will be surprised may be that I never ever missed ONE of those objects. So when will you join the movement?
2 – Remove the layers
This is an extension of “less is more.” We often in our life have a tendency to ADD instead of removing because we feel we will be more complete, happier, with more information, activities, friends, etc. How many newsletters do you receive in your inbox and don’t read? How big are your “to read – to watch – to do” lists? All this adds confusion to the brain, which has a hard enough time focusing on one thing – it’s always thinking it’s missing out on something else. This is a perfect recipe to create tension and unhappiness. So unsubscribe from what you don’t read, simplify your inbox, clean your agenda, and focus on the essential.
3 – Get wisdom from unusual sources
You remember that employee or colleague that comes from a totally different background from you? Remember how creative and innovative his ideas were? Remember that chat with a 5-year-old child that told you the most profound wisdom you had ever heard? Knowledge and wisdom often come not from the most known teachers but from very unusual people or places. Seek to sit and talk to those who are not from your tribe.
4 – Struggle is real
I am not saying the path to happiness is going to be easy, but I am saying it is going to be worth it. Change, life, work, all of those are filled with struggle. Remember, every time you meet someone, that person is fighting a battle you often cannot know of. So recognizing suffering as part of the human experience is not a dark or hard vision of the human condition, but essential in recognizing humanity in others and in the mirror. Struggle, when shared and worked with vulnerability, opens the doors of profound transformation on the path of happiness.
5 – Make sure to be often Off Grid (Or what I call “On Grid”)
What we call being “off grid” – meaning out of the city/off Facebook/off of electronics – is in fact being on the real grid. Nature, direct human contact, sharing, walking outside, turning our phone off, taking an “electronic-free day” – these all seem to be actions to disconnect. Why not approach them as a way to reconnect to what we truly are, to our real home, to our silence, to others?
6 – Be of service
Make sure your life is filled with daily and weekly moments of service. It can be to our life partner, to our kids or parents, to a friend or to a stranger. Those hours we give to serve someone else or a higher purpose are essential in a happy life. Many studies have been conducted which show that the true happiness of an individual comes more from giving than from receiving. So however busy you are, make sure to have specific moments where you serve someone else.
7 – Open your eyes in the eyes you have open
This is not always an easy one. What do I mean by “opening eyes in eyes we have open?” It means that we see things only from our view, from our pre-conceived world created from our education, traditions or past – and not from a neutral and truthful point of view. We do not see the truth, we see our truth. It’s not easy to see things differently but one of the big steps we can take is to start recognizing that we do not see “the” world; we see “our” world. The ultimate truth can only be seen by looking at all the “un-truth” that today we believe in. It takes practice and time but the first step is to acknowledge this pure fact.
8 – Wonder & wander…
Seek the different, the unusual, the unfamiliar, the unexpected, the inexplicable, what amazes you and what makes you dream. All this will power your imagination to fill your work and life with unexpected gifts: new ideas, inspirations, and happy thoughts. Our strongest moments of inspiration do not happen at a desk or in our kitchen but often outside in nature or watching a wood fire. Go seek those moments.
9 – There is only the present
The past is gone and we cannot change it. The future is not here yet. Only the present is. Yet, we often worry about the future, a future we are creating in our head and which does not exist. And we carry the burden of the past with regrets or remorse or wishes of having done/lived/said/acted differently. A past we cannot change any part of. The key to happiness and a fulfilling life is to develop a few practices that help you to be more present. Meditation is one of the most powerful of these (some good tips here how to meditate or come learn it with me here).
10 – Heart open, ALWAYS
Sometimes, at work or in life, we have to make difficult decisions such as letting go of an employee or breaking off a relationship. It’s important that whatever we do, we need to remember to keep the human in the equation. Always. People have their own path, their own struggle, their own up and downs. We can’t “save” everyone, nor can we replace the power of a personal experience, but we can keep our heart open and listen to the other person’s point of view, however hurt or mistreated we believe we have been.
11 – Nurture your sacred space
In a world that seems to change at an ever more rapid pace, where we are often far from our family roots, and moving places (too) often, we need to have a place we can call home, a nest we can come back to, a safe and sacred haven. That place has to be nurtured, cleaned, ordered, and taken care of like our best friend. When the storm comes or just when we need to recharge, we need to know where this special place is. So find it, and nurture it.
12 – Seek the light in the dark
Often, when problems arise (tensions at work or at home, difficulties with our company or life partner), we have a tendency to focus on the negative, the problem – it’s part of our brain’s default mode. Yet, in fact, what we often think of as an issue could be a blessing in disguise. Not only that, but there is often light even in the depth of the tunnel. Keeping the healthy habit to force the brain to focus on this can make a huge different in the outcome, and in the journey.
13 – Our acts have hidden effects
Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? When a butterfly moves its wings here in New York, it can create a storm in the southern hemisphere. The parable here is that when we say or do something, there are a lot of indirect effects that we cannot always foresee. Being mindful of what we say or do can bring more awareness on our actions and words and ultimately create a better view of all the potential ripple effects.
14 – Be vulnerable
I am a BIG fan of the work of Brene Brown – if you have never heard of her you have to quit everything now and go watch her TED Talk. By being vulnerable, we re-conquer our humanity. Said in other words, we become human again. Superman and superwoman are not human. If we are seen as too perfect, people cannot relate ot connect to us – but the biggest issue is that we create a world of disconnected people where those with issues or problems fail to reach out because they think the people out there are always happy, perfect, and strong. So showing our vulnerability, talking about our failures, embracing our downfalls, is the key to a profound change in the way we relate to ourselves and to others.
15 – Life is precious, cherish it
In the past week, people very close to me lost a very dear friend, too young, too early. Often we are reminded in those ways that life is not infinite and that we are part of a broader universe where everything is born and will die. Refusing to acknowledge this is refusing the basic fundamental essence of what we are. In our physical form, we are going to go and decay one day. But this is a joyous message to encourage us to celebrate every single moment – every single day – as a very special one. Be grateful for being here, being able to read this, being able to walk, able to have a roof above your head, food in your plate. Let’s not wait for those who go to remind ourselves that today is the day, the only day to live in!
Make these principles yours, live them, adapt them, rewrite them, feel them. They are only my examples, based on my path. Yet, by making them your own, based on your own life path, you can start to experience life – or whatever is coming at you – in a more present, meaningful and happy way.
And if you feel you need help and support, email me, I can coach you about these changes with some simple and practical exercises.
Be happy, here, and now!