Jan 3

Happiness, The Ultimate Currency

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

At the beginning of the year, a lot of us are setting our personal goals. Often, these goals are centered around the topic material wealth. How much money we want to make in the upcoming year, buying a new home or purchasing a more prestigious car, going for that top job etc.

What we often overlook is the danger of getting stuck in that hamster wheel. Not looking left, not looking right, we join the rat race and even, when we reach our goals, we typically suffer from arrival fallacy. We falsely believe that reaching a certain goal or destination leads to sustained happiness.

However, how does reality look like? Isn’t it that the moment we bought a new car, let us say a Volkswagen Beetle, we dream already of having a bigger car, like e.g. a Toyota Camry. And a few years later, the moment we got the Camry, we dream of having a S-Class Mercedes Benz. It’s the same with our career. Supposed we are a salesman, the same day we get a promotion to the position of sales supervisor, we start immediately working towards our next promotion as a sales manager. We hardly ever lean back, reflect and enjoy what we already are or already have.

We are not rewarded by society for enjoying the journey, but for our successful completion. Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys. We are living in a rat race culture.

However, as Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar who taught the most popular course at Harvard University states in one of my all time favourite books “Happier – Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment”:

“Happiness, not money or prestige should be regarded as the ultimate currency – the currency by which we take measures of our lives.”

“Happiness, not money or prestige should be regarded as the ultimate currency – the currency by which we take measures of our lives.”

Ben-Shahar explains: “Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”

Ben-Shahar’s book, grounded in the positive psychology movement, is a guide to increase happiness no matter how happy you are when you start reading.

Ben-Shahar states that happiness is the overall experience of pleasure and meaning over the aggregate of our lifetime’s experiences. Pleasure is a present benefit while meaning is a future benefit.

Finding the right work – work that corresponds to both our passions and our strengths – can be challenging and plays a major role for our state of happiness. Ben-Shahar has developed a Meaning, Pleasure, Strengths (MPS) – process and encourages you to ask yourself these three crucial questions:

- What gives me meaning?

-What gives me pleasure?

-What are my strengths?

Looking at the answers and identifying the areas of overlap can help you determine what kind of work would make you happiest.

Already the famous American psychologist Abraham Maslow stated: “The most beautiful fate, the most wonderful good fortune that can happen to any human being, is to be paid for doing that which he passionately loves to do.”

Going back even further, let me share with you this quote of the Chinese philosopher Confucius: ” Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, stated: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

It all depends how we look at things. When I attended a few years ago an executive education program at the University of Michigan on positive leadership, Dr. Jane Dutton shared with us some of  her research findings on hospital cleaners. One group of employees experienced their work as a job – as boring and meaningless – while the other group perceived the same work as engaging and meaningful. Generally, they saw their work in its broader context and actively imbued it with meaning: they were not merely removing the garbage and washing dirty linen but were contributing to patients’ well-being and the smooth functioning of the hospital.

When it comes to generating the ultimate currency, how we perceive the work can matter more than the work itself. Hospital cleaners who recognize a simple truth, which is that their work makes a difference, are happier than doctors who don’t experience their work as meaningful.

Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account, the car we are driving, that top job we are having or the latest technology gadgets that we are using. Our level of well-being is determined by what we choose to focus on (Is the glass half full or half empty?) and by our interpretation of external events (considering  failure as a negative thing vs. seeing it as a learning opportunity).

Finally, let me share with you one learning that I got from attending an Anthony Robbins – seminar: He asks: “What is it that makes people happy? The answer is progress. It doesn’t matter how great your life is, if you are not growing / expanding, you are not gonna feel fulfilled. It doesn’t matter at which stage in your life you are right now. Progress is happiness.”

In this spirit, I wish you in 2012 lots of progress in achieving happiness, the ultimate currency in your life.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 16:57 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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Leave a comment

  1. elan says:

    Making progress in achieving happiness is a everyday effort. Waking up in the morning is the beginning of that happiness journey.

    Thank you for the article.

  2. Poorya says:

    Dear Charla:Thank you for letting me know that you also reieevcd the RippleCards from Tan Yee Ming, the creator of the RippleCards. We are constantly challenged by the negative emotion. Actually, negative emotion is a self defense reflex. It will always be with us. I also have negative emotion whenever I was disappointed or hurt. It is OK. All you need to do is to take a few big breathes and start the positive self talk to yourself. RippleCards is the self affirmation or positive self talk that I used. I hope you can start this practice by using RippleCards on daily basis.Please be a Ripplemaker,Ping

  3. Insights like this liven things up around here.