5 Thieves of Happiness

5 Thieves of Happiness

Be Happier This Year

 

What if happiness was your natural state?

What if we are seeking something on the outside that is found on the inside?

How do you recognize and lock out the five thieves that want to steal your happiness?

That’s what John Izzo teaches. He believes that happiness is being stolen by mental patterns. Five thieves are working to destroy your happiness.

All of us can recognize these thieves and learn to lock them out of our lives.

John Izzo, PhD, is a speaker and author of six books. I read his latest, The Five Thieves of Happiness and enjoyed its thoughtful approach. I recently asked him about his latest work.

 

“Happiness is our natural state.” -John Izzo

 

The Science of Happiness

Why is the study of happiness and the pursuit of happiness such a rage today?

Well, I think some of the things that used to make us happy such as a sense of community and connection have been lost. So, a loss of place and being more urban is now a contributor. Also, a rising middle class focuses more on happiness. They say there is also something bigger when things in the larger society seem out of control—things like climate change, terrorism, the pace of change. We realize we cannot control these things so we often focus in where we can change—which, by the way, is a good instinct because it is where all societal change begins anyway. Finally, I think the fact that science has started to study happiness in a serious way helps because maybe people feel that you can actually hardwire happiness rather than thinking that some people are simply happy.

 

“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” -Shakespeare

 

“Attention without attachment” immediately pulled me in. How do we best make this a daily practice?

It is a critical concept for happiness. Attention is about the actions we take, the intention we have moment to moment. Attachment is a focus on a goal or what is called in yoga a “sticky desire.” Here is a simple example: I play a great deal of tennis. Attention is about being in the present moment at every point in a match. Being aware of my body, how I want to hit the ball and seeing what is happening around me. There is great happiness in playing and even the artistry of the moment-to-moment intention to improve. Winning the match is attachment and is something I cannot control. The more I focus on my attachment to winning, the less happiness I will have and, ironically, the less likely I am to win. The way we cultivate this is to first recognize the difference when it shows up. When we feel that happiness is in the outcome we must stop that thought and instead have this mantra: “I choose to be in the present moment accepting whatever is. The outcome is not in my control.” This takes training of the mind which we have trained to focus on attachment to what we cannot control: the future. When our intentions don’t lead to our desired outcome, we must then simply re-choose how to be in the present moment again. So, you lost the match, the relationship, the promotion, or even playing golf this afternoon when the rainstorm ruined it. Once you see that unhappiness is resistance to whatever is at any moment. Happiness is being present in each moment and open to what might arrive. Never confuse this with some resigned passivity. I am still going to practice hard for the next match, but it is attention without attachment.

 

“Routine is deadening to the human soul.” -John Izzo

 

5 Thieves of Happiness

1: Control

2: Conceit

3: Coveting

4: Consumption

5: Comfort

 

Practice Accepting What Is

Surrender is the opposite force from control. But it’s so far from easy for many of us. How do we build up a reservoir of surrender energy to be used just when we need it?

5 Thieves of HappinessSurrendering is very hard for most people. It begins with the realization that all emotional and spiritual suffering is resistance to whatever is happening at any given moment. This may seem like hyperbole, but it isn’t. All the great teachers taught surrender in one form or another. I think you start by practicing with the little things. You had a busy day and can’t wait to get home; suddenly there is an accident, and you’re stuck in traffic for an hour. Practice accepting what is with no resistance, surrendering to the outcome and asking, “How can I find joy or meaning right now?” If you practice surrendering to the small detours in life, you will be ready for the big ones like the death of someone you love or your eventual loss of health. We are a society of doers, so we don’t like surrender, but my idea of surrender is not simply giving up. It is embracing whatever is while trying to influence it as best I can. But surrender comes before action. Acting from what I call “surrender energy” is more powerful because you aren’t taking on the misery of attachment. You begin with the little stuff because if you can’t surrender to that, you have no chance when the big stuff shows up.

 

“The future cannot be controlled, only experienced.” -John Izzo

 

Serve Something Outside Yourself

The Secret Success Lesson I Learned from a Total Stranger

thanks in advance

Be Thankful In Advance

 

“Thank God in advance for what’s already yours.” –Denzel Washington

 

Around Thanksgiving, we often ask each other, “What are you most thankful for this year?”

Over the years, I’ve heard many answers to that question. I remember one man, years ago, who was sitting at a lunch counter next to me. I was waiting for a to-go order. Now, I won’t call him old, but at the time, I was maybe 20, and he was many years my senior. His face was lined, his hair as white as it could possibly be, and his eyes had a look of mischief mixed with wisdom. It was a few days before Thanksgiving.

I asked him the question as a conversation-starter, and he nodded, a demonstration he was processing.

“I’m most thankful for my business success next year. Growing faster than ever. Having to hire more people to help with the growth. And the expansion to another location. That was more than I expected.”

The place was getting louder. Clearly I heard him wrong, so I clarified.

“You mean this year.”

“No, next year.”

“You’re thankful for opening another location for your business next year?”

“Yes, definitely. It’s even more successful than our first location.”

I didn’t even know what business he was in, but I was beginning to think he was losing some of his mental faculties.

Until he continued….

“See, I’m thankful for what’s happening next year. I am so thankful. I think about the people who made it happen, and I think about the results. I spend a lot of time thinking about them.”

My sandwich was now ready, so I paid for it and took the change. I thanked the man for sharing.

As I was gathering up my things, he asked me the return question. “What about you, son? What are you most grateful for?”

I remember responding quickly. “You. I’m thankful for you.”

And I was gone.

I don’t recall the sandwich I ate from the restaurant. But I sure do remember that conversation. I didn’t realize the power of it then. This gentleman had unlocked a secret. It was visualization with a powerful twist. He not only saw himself achieving his dreams, but he was already thanking people – in advance – for the success.

 

“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.” –Bo Bennett

 

Master the Surprising Timing of Gratitude

Gratitude is often the surprising key to success in any venture.

What most of us seem to get wrong is the timing of gratitude. We think the time to be grateful is after. This man taught me that we should be thankful in the first place.

Change the Thanksgiving Equation: Thanks + Giving

Thanks + Giving

Rethink the Order

We celebrate Thanksgiving this week in the United States. It’s a holiday that I love for many reasons.

A tradition in many homes on Thanksgiving is to ask, “What are you most thankful for?”

Growing up, I heard all types of answers from the serious to the hilarious.

The focus on thankfulness and gratitude is a welcome one in a world that’s often negative and draining. It’s impossible to feel entitled when you’re busy thanking those who have made a difference in your life. Expressing thankfulness has numerous benefits from reducing depression to boosting your immune system.

 

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” –Hansa Proverb

 

But today I was thinking about the holiday differently.

Because it’s not only about being thankful and grateful.

The equation, in my way of thinking, is backwards. We often think of it this way:

Giving ⇒ thanks.

We think of Thanksgiving as the time to give thanks. We stop and show appreciation, express gratitude for all that we have in our lives. And that’s good.

But perhaps the equation is supposed to be exactly as stated:

Thanks ⇒ giving

Instead of giving thanks as the end result, it’s the beginning. We should give to others as a result of our thanks. In other words, because of our thankfulness, we are to be giving. Does that way of looking at it change anything?

It does for me. I realize that I can use this opportunity to do more for others.

 

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” -Karl Barth

 

Instead of simply expressing thankfulness, what about getting active in the giving part of this equation? Thanksgiving is not only expressing thankful appreciation but also about paying it forward.

12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact

Small acts of leadership

 

What’s different about the most remarkable leaders?

How can I have a bigger impact?

 

How Small Acts Can Equal Big Impact

Author and serial entrepreneur G. Shawn Hunter is the founder of Mindscaling. His latest book, Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact, argues that it’s the simple things, when done extraordinarily well, that make a great leader.

Shawn and I talked about his book and how it’s not always the most extraordinary, sweeping actions that make the biggest impact.

 


“The greatest leaders cheer us on when we try something new.” -Shawn Hunter

 

I love this philosophy because all of us can make just a few adjustments and improve our leadership today.

 

Do One Thing At A Time

G. Shawn HunterYou advocate that small, incremental choices can lead to a big impact. In your research for this book, what one small choice have you noticed in the most successful leaders?

I would say the one thing that successful people do is that they do one thing at a time. That might sound small and trifling, but, honestly, the way successful people get things done, or have meaningful conversations, is to do only that one thing. They turn off their phone when talking to people. They turn off email. They schedule time for writing and reading. They block off time for exercise and reflection. It sounds small, but it adds up.

 

Successful people do one thing at a time.

 

Is it possible to teach self-confidence? What are some ways to increase it?

The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence. Nothing makes you feel confident like being prepared. There is also a type of self-questioning that can be quite helpful. Instead of repeating the mantra, “Yes, I can do this!” to build self-confidence, try asking yourself if you have the capabilities to achieve what you are envisioning. If you ask specific questions of yourself, you will be forced to answer to your weaknesses and reconcile them.

 


“The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence.” -Shawn Hunter

 

Build Your Resilience

You talk about building resilience through challenge. Do challenges make the leader, or does the leader seek out challenges?

From what I understand through studying flow states, it’s a self-reinforcing paradigm, but only if you get the challenge part right. As your readers may know, flow states occur when the level of challenge presented meets (or slightly exceeds) your skill level. In that state we can become hyper-aware and hyper-focused. We also accelerate our learning. Once we feel that state, we often seek out those experiences which create flow states. There are people who can actually get addicted to inducing this type of state. They’re called Type T people, also known as adrenaline junkies.

 


Pronoia: believing the world is conspiring for your success.

 

Develop Persistent Curiosity

Persistence. I love the story of your daughter and how she ended up with a rare poster of Taylor Swift. What are some ways to develop persistent curiosity in everything we do?SmallActs-front (1)

Good question! The great physicist Richard Feynman once described how you can spot a real expert versus a phony. Look for three little words, “I don’t know.” The phony will have all the answers, while the experts will be willing to admit what they don’t know. Real experts are relentlessly curious, even assertively curious – that is, they will demand explanations for things that many others simply accept as rules.

Here’s an interesting fact about people who describe themselves as curious. These people are also assertive. Curious people are decision-makers. They are influencers. They often say they have direct influence over the outcome of decisions and change. If you think of the people in your company and community who consistently drive change, I bet you will be thinking of inquisitive people – people willing to ask the hard questions.

 


“Creating confidence is the result of applied effort and work.” -Shawn Hunter

 

Take a Break (even if you’re busy!)

You advocate the counterintuitive advice of taking breaks when we’re busy. Why is taking a break so important? How do you get a type-A, driven leader to follow this practice?

All-nighters don’t scale. Period. In some corners of business, we have created a work environment in which it’s cool to brag about how many hours we work, and how little sleep we get, and how many deliverables we accomplish. I worked in a company once that mandated a rapid response time to every incoming message. When you create an environment which requires people to constantly monitor correspondence over email and text, the next thing they do is constantly initiate messages.

Studies demonstrate what we already know intuitively. That is, our intellectual and productivity capacity diminishes rapidly when we are sleep deprived and when we are distracted. To answer your question, organizations and leaders should reward people who deliver meaningful, thoughtful contributions, not who puts out the highest volume of email noise.

12 Intentional Behaviors for Big Impact

1: Believe in yourself.

2: Build confidence.

3: Introduce challenge.

4: Express gratitude.

5: Fuel curiosity.

6: Grant autonomy.

7: Strive for authenticity.

8: Be fully present.

9: Inspire others.

10. Clarify roles.

11. Defy convention.

12. Take a break.

Defy Convention

Of the 12 critical competencies, is there one that more leaders struggle with than others?

Who in Your Life Deserves a Gold Medal?

Gold medal

Winning Gold

The Olympic rings must be magnetic, pulling me in every few years. Whatever the event, I’m fascinated by the competition and by the stories of the athletes. They are irresistible. The fact that the world comes together, for just a few weeks, is incredibly inspiring.

 

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.” – Dan Gable

 

If you’re a student of success, the Olympics offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand drive, determination, and discipline. Every individual has a unique story of overcoming obstacles. You don’t make it to the field without years of practice. You also don’t make it without a team of supporters.

I especially love watching the podium during the award ceremonies. As the medals are placed around the winners’ necks, and especially when the anthems are played, you glimpse the sheer joy of victory. It’s common to see tears, the emotion raw at that moment. And then, if the camera catches it right, you also see some of the others who are also part of the success. Friends, family, and coaches are beaming with pride.

 

“By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.” -Voltaire

 

Champions Behind the Scenes

As the games in Rio draw to a conclusion, I think about all of the people who help us succeed every day but never get a medal. These people are instrumental in shaping us. Maybe it’s a mom or a dad, a teacher, or a friend who is always there. You may have had a mentor or a special boss who inspired you to do more than you thought you could. If you’re as fortunate as me, it may be your spouse who deserves the Gold.

 

“The joy of leadership is helping others succeed.” –Roger Stilson

 

Why not take the time to recognize some special people? Who deserves a Gold Medal in your life? Go ahead and share this post with them. Tell their story in the comments (it’s really not that hard to leave one! You can sign up for Disqus, sign in with your social media account, or sign in as a guest) or in your social media stream.

 

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“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” –John F. Kennedy

 

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” –Veronica Roth