We all Want to be Happy
We start this blog series with HAPPINESS, and the choice is intentional.
Happiness is something we all want. As the Dalai Lama says, “it is the purpose of life”.
So, as a global leader or expatriate, how can you be happy?
Global and international assignments seem to provide so many opportunities for professional and personal growth, faster career progression, rewards, prestige, travel, and learning from different cultures and interesting people.
It looks like such a fulfilling and exciting life: a happy life.
Yet, when I observe leaders and expat partners, I often perceive their apprehension for the future and frustration for the present. There is:
- Too much focus on the future. They may be thinking, “I will be happy when…” I get that promotion, recognition, a higher bonus, a better house, or more friends. They may live in a competitive struggle always wanting more.You may live in a “rat race”. in
- Too much focus on the past. They may be too attached to “work and life before transition” and resist the “new way of doing things”. They may have difficulties adjusting to the new working and living environment, to a different communication style and culture. They may tend to idealize the past and condemn the present.
There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and with working hard to get what you want. However, being too future-focused and measuring success in relationship to materialistic achievements can lead to discontentment and anxiety.
There is nothing wrong with appreciating your past experiences and longing your home country. However, attachment to the past may lead to frustration and to an impoverished present and future.
When you think of happiness as something that you will achieve
“If and When” something happens,
you may find yourself on a never-ending pursuit.
What is Happiness?
Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
In a state of happiness, we experience all these positive emotions and we feel positive and energized. However, international life presents itself with so many challenge; emotions such as loss, failure, frustration, and loneliness are so common for expatriates and global leaders.
How can we nurture a state of Happiness?
Happiness is the wellness of the mind. Buddhists call this state “sukha”, a state of profound and sustainable wellbeing when freed of negative emotions.
So, the key to long lasting happiness is not about making sure that everything goes well all the time. That would be impossible. Instead, it is about making the choice to focus on something positive, be in the present moment, and deal consciously and constantly with negative emotions. Happiness is within yourself.
Happiness is in the now, not in the future and not in the past.
Happiness is a choice.
Happiness has to be cultivated. We need to do it daily. But, how can we achieve that? Here, I want to share with you a valuable framework.
It is called S.T.A.G.E. (www.happify.com) and it has been designed to help you develop 5 key happiness competencies.
Be mindful of everything good that happens to you at work and in life. Make the “good” last as long as possible. Take the time to take in the smile of a colleague, a meeting gone well, positive business results, local food or drink, a song, a walk in a new neighborhood, discovering a new place, or meeting someone new.
Appreciate what you have and appreciate others. Research shows that the practice of gratitude is directly related to our level of happiness (Dr. M. Seligman, R. Emmons, Ph.D.), and that it does not have to be a big thing. We will feel happier by just writing a thank you letter, keeping a gratitude journal or sharing a “gratitude moment” with our family. Associated benefit: when we feel happier, we improve our health and our sleep.
Aspiring is about feeding a sense of purpose, a higher goal. Keep your “why” present and current. Purpose makes us feel hopeful and optimistic and these have been found to promote happiness and success.
Be generous with your time, listen and share. Giving makes everybody happier: the receiver and the giver. Studies show that generosity is related to less stress, it nurtures the sense of community and friendship and makes us feel less lonely. In his research, Dr. Stephen Post (Case Western Reserve University) “shows that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly affected. Mortality is delayed. Depression is reduced. Well-being and good fortune are increased” (www.happify.com).
There is a connection between empathy and happiness. When we listen, care and understand others we pave the ground for creating stronger and more meaningful relationships. In return, relationships have been found to positively impact our happiness, health, and life expectations.
How can you implement S.T.A.G.E. in your life and at work? What behaviors would you like to practice more? How are you going to bring more attention to that? When are you going to start?
- Choose one of the competencies from the S.T.A.G.E. framework: for example “Give”.
- Define specific goals around giving. What would you like to give more of? To whom? When and how often?
- Create the habit of giving.
Example: “I want to dedicate more time to my direct reports development. It will make me feel that I am a better boss and that I am doing a better job. In my calendar I will block one hour on Mondays to provide feedback and bite size training”.
- Repeat – Repeat – Repeat until it becomes a habit.
Of course you will have good and bad days. On bad days, consciously deal with your negative thoughts and emotions, practice gratitude for what is good, and take some positive actions to improve your present and future.
Hope this post will inspire you to take the lead on your Happiness. A wonderful book I would recommend you to read is “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor.
“Judge nothing, you will be happy.
Forgive everything, you will be happier.
Love everything, you will be happiest”
– Buddha –