When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Richard Layard: Coffee, muesli and news on the radio.
TG: What gives you energy?
RL: Thinking of some person out there who might benefit from what I do.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
RL: A short Tibetan exercise to experience perfection – with effects that last hours.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
RL: Daniel Kahneman’s edited volume on Wellbeing (1999). It got me into the subject of happiness.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
RL: I carry my phone but normally on silent. I usually ring back a day later. At night I charge the phone next door.
TG: How do you deal with email?
RL: I have a wonderful colleague who only shows me (in print) what is essential.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
RL: Meditate or play Bridge Baron, or listen to a podcast or music. But if I’m working, I’d do more work.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
RL: Never, but it’s easy being an academic.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
RL: 2010, when I messed up an important grant application. In consequence, I had to make a lot more applications.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
RL: “Lasting happiness starts with one question: What can I celebrate?”
Richard Layard is an economist who thinks there is more to happiness than just the economy. In 2005 he wrote the best-selling book Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, translated into 20 languages, and in 2014 a follow-up on mental health called Thrive. He has had huge influence in making psychological therapy more widely available in Britain’s National Health Service. But most important of all he is co-founder of Action for Happiness, an international movement to promote a happier way of living.