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The Secret To Happiness?

A personal approach

Thank you to 123RF for the photo

Happiness. Peace. Balance. In 2017, it seemed that mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon of fixing a presumed dissatisfaction we have with our lives. Wellness trends readily embraced the pursuit of contentment as part of mental health. Marketers hopped on, with claims that their product will bring true bliss. As our society has suddenly turned attention to tackling the problem of our own discontent, I began to wonder—Do I even know what happiness is? My first thought through self-reflection is that anyone can find their own contentment. However our constant connection to technology provides advertisers with a direct line into our headspace. I am convinced that this makes finding happiness more elusive than it’s ever been in the history of mankind.

It’s all about you

I have learned that happiness starts and ends with us. Through my personal search I have found that no matter what is happening in life, we still have control over how we will approach any situation. Anyone can find the time and commit to the discipline of mindfulness, breathing, quiet reflection, and exercise. There is no question that a person needs these to find happiness. Start simple and the next thing you know, a transformation comes. Recently a connection on LinkedIn shared a great app called WinStreak. It’s simple. At the end of each day, you take time to think of 3 wins for the day. The purpose is to make positive thinking a habit. I’ve done this while juggling priorities of 4 kids, pets, community volunteering, and a demanding job. Believe me, finding the time to prioritize mindfulness is possible!

The Connection Dilemma

Everyone has ideas about happiness, and I’ve heard them all. Through TED Talks, the Harvard Business Review, psychology studies, Eastern medicine, and even the Bible, I have found a common thread joins these diverse perspectives. The theme is that happiness, personal peace, or whatever one calls it, comes from being connected to yourself. Not to trending topics or to the opinions of others—to find happiness, you must first connect with yourself. The most important piece of self-connection that many struggle with is this: it’s hard. You have to be willing to give up the need to feel relevant, to be seen as a person who is hyper-involved in everything that is “important.” This could be sitting on company boards, doing speaking engagements, or over-committing to social events. Our current-day definition of “connection” is simply not healthy.

Pick any form of media—newspapers, Facebook, or Twitter, just to name a few. There is just too much to consume and most of the information really isn’t relevant to a person looking for inner peace. I would challenge you to make a priority to disconnect and make time for your mental wellbeing. For me, I disconnect for 30 minutes every morning and also during dinner with my family. This may not seem like much, but it’s a start. I now read or listen to podcasts, hang out by the water, or join in whatever my family wants to do that helps me realize what is really important. I spend time doing volunteer work. And I make time for friends who are like-minded. It is so important to maintain meaningful connections with people who challenge and inspire you.

Marketing—friend or foe?

Now, I have many friends in the business of marketing. This is so not personal. In fact, it’s because of the profession’s accomplishments that we now believe we have to always be attached to our device. We also crave personalized attention and we want it right now. Technology and marketing have converged to create the perfect storm. Nonstop connection to TV, news, our favorite app that we use to share every minute of our lives with the world actually puts pressure on us. This is becoming a health epidemic that we need to address. Why can’t we market happiness and the benefit of disconnecting? My vote is the next holiday declaration will be a technology-free day!

Recently a colleague asked, Bob, how do you balance all of this when you have a family that has many demands as well? My answer is this: we have to prioritize. Yes, there are no more than 24 hours in the day, but that is a whole lot of time if you only focus on what you want and need to do. For me, I made a conscious decision this summer to make my family my top priority. Not myself. Not work. And surprisingly as a result, I am in better shape because I focus hard on the time I train. When I am at work, I focus and prioritize on what will be most impactful for the organization. At home, we focus on the time we have together and I prioritize giving time to my favorite community causes. And look, I still have time to share all of this with you. Time and life is a short. Make your happiness a priority and true balance in all life priorities will follow.

Happiness and mindfulness takes work, but the payoff is life-changing.

Where To Start

Here are a few tools that have helped me on my personal journey to happiness:

  1. Audible Books: Where You Go There You Are, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Peace Is Every Step

  2. Apps: WinStreak, Calm, Abide

  3. Music: “Meditation” station on Amazon Prime Music

  4. Thank you Shannon Shallcross for the thoughtful edits.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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