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

Your Big Opportunity is Where You Are

It’s Right In Front of You

My wife will tell you that I most often miss what’s right in front of me. Sure, I can find something hidden in the pantry or buried in the refrigerator. But when I call out, “Honey, do we have any milk?” it’s a near-certainty that it is sitting smack in front of my face.

Don’t laugh. Some of you have done that, too.

There’s a reason the saying, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” endures through the years.

Because it’s so often true. We can miss what’s right in front of us.

 

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are.” –Napoleon Hill

 

We abandon today’s happiness as we dream about what it would be like somewhere else.

We think that owning a business tomorrow is better than working on the job today.

We imagine that the job will be better than school.

We tell ourselves that it will be calm and peaceful in our homes once the children grow up.

And, at times, we are right.

But how often do we give up today’s happiness unnecessarily? What if the opportunity we dreamed of wasn’t there, but was here?

 

“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” -Og Mandino

 

The Joy of Today

Most of you know I’m all about dreaming, about setting big goals, and about achieving them. At the same time, we need to experience the joy of today, the happiness of right now, the magic of the moment.

Improve Your Leadership With the Mindfulness Edge

Get the Mindfulness Edge

Most of us have heard of mindfulness. These days it is all the rage in certain circles. My friend Matt Tenney is one who practices it in a way that inspires. It’s not just how he does it but also where he first learned it: in a prison cell. That’s right, my friend Matt was once behind bars where he changed his entire outlook and changed the course of his life. In fact, that dark time in his life seems to have been the best time because many people have learned from his mistakes and from what he learned through the ordeal.

 

“Every moment of our lives can be infused with the deepest meaning possible.” –Matt Tenney

 

Today, Matt Tenney works to develop highly effective leaders who achieve extraordinary long-term business outcomes—and live more fulfilling lives—as a result of realizing high levels of self-mastery. He is a social entrepreneur, an author, a keynote speaker, and a corporate trainer. Matt’s clients include Wells Fargo, Marriott, Keller Williams, Four Seasons, and many other companies, associations, and universities.

His first book, Serve to Be Great, is one I highly recommend. Now, his latest is all about mindfulness and how it can rewire your brain for success. It is a fascinating read, full of research to back up the many claims of the practice. I recently asked Matt about his latest book, The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule.

 

Train Your Mind for Optimal Performance

What are the key ways mindfulness can help us improve professionally and personally?

Everyone seems to agree that all successes and all failures begin in the mind. Yet very few of us take time to train the mind to function better. Most of us add knowledge through study, which can be very helpful. However, we know that a person can be very “book smart” but still have great difficulty making good decisions and/or developing and sustaining healthy relationships with other people.

Matt TenneyIt is clear that just as important as what we know is the type of mind we show up with every day. Mindfulness training provides a way to systematically develop a healthier, more effective mind, and there’s now a large body of research suggesting that mindfulness training changes the physical structure of our brains in ways that help us perform better both professionally and personally.

Perhaps most important for business, mindfulness training changes the brain in ways that enhance self-awareness and mental agility, which may be the two most important leadership skills there are. These skills reduce the degree to which we’re influenced by the biases we all have. This freedom from bias can dramatically improve our business acumen and our impact on the bottom line.

Also, self-awareness is the foundation of emotional and social intelligence, which are essential for creating and sustaining high-performance team cultures. All other things being equal, over the long term, a team with a more positive emotional climate is going to significantly outperform a team with a negative emotional climate. Mindfulness training improves our impact on the emotional climate of our teams.

Mindfulness training can also have a dramatic impact on our personal lives. The practice helps free us from unpleasant emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger and helps develop a special type of happiness that does not depend on what happens to us or what we have. We can train to develop unconditional happiness.

 

Mindfulness training results in highly refined levels of self-awareness.

 

The Biggest Mindfulness Misconception

Many people read about mindfulness and have a variety of perceptions about it. What is the biggest misconception people have about the practice?

The biggest misconception I see is that people conflate being mindful and techniques for developing mindfulness. People think engaging in mindfulness practice means we have to add to our schedules unfamiliar techniques like sitting still and watching our breath go in and out. Sitting still and watching our breath is not necessarily mindfulness practice. It is one technique, of many, that can facilitate the development of mindfulness.

To begin practicing mindfulness, you don’t need to add anything to your schedule. You just need to make and sustain a subtle inner shift during the activities you already engage in every day.

 

Study: Mindfulness training results in physical changes to the structure of the brain.

 

What’s your definition of mindfulness?

Find Your Balance Point

Clarify Your Priorities

 

Are you experiencing the highest level of clarity and confidence possible to pursue your goals? 

Do you feel inspired and fully engaged?

Does your life feel like it is in perfect harmony?

 

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” –Brian Tracy

 

Most of us experience times when we feel like we are on top of our game and other times when we need to rebalance our priorities. How can we consistently stay in the place that works for us?

For many years, I have been a fan of Brian Tracy, one of the world’s top speakers with audiences exceeding 250,000 people each year. He is the author of over fifty books, including the bestselling Psychology of Achievement, which remains one of the top resources for personal development. His daughter Christina Stein is a speaker, author, and psychotherapist who focuses on work-life balance and female empowerment. The father-daughter duo teamed up to write Find Your Balance Point: Clarify Your Priorities, Simplify Your Life, and Achieve More. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Christina about their new work.

 

“True happiness is about serving others.” –Christina Stein

 

How to Achieve True Balance

What is a balance point?

We are all unique individuals with our own values, vision, purpose, and goals. Each one of us has a different way of achieving true balance. Each person experiences true balance when he or she is operating at their own unique balance point. Your balance point is a state of alignment that you experience when your actions and efforts are a true reflection of your values. It is from your balance point that you experience the highest level of clarity, commitment, strength, and confidence to pursue your ambitions, both personally and professionally.Christina Stein

You want your efforts to have power, strength and meaning. In order to move forward with focus and intention you need be sure footed and feel grounded and balanced. In martial arts before you throw a punch you get into the ready stance so you know you are at optimum grounding to have the most power and resistance. Your balance point is your own unique ready stance for life.

 

You say we can achieve a false balance. What is this? How do we recognize it?

False balance is incongruence with your actions and your values. There are a couple ways to recognize when you are experiencing false balance:

  1. You feel a little knot in your stomach all the time, and you’ve become so accustomed to this feeling that you think its normal.
  1. At the end of a busy day you sit down and feel as though you spent the whole day doing things and yet accomplished nothing.
  1. You are constantly feeling guilty about what you are doing and think you should be doing something else.
  1. Nothing inspires you. Your life is monotonous and boring, every day rolls into the next and few things hold meaning for you.

When you are experiencing false balance you may do things to try and feel better, things associated with feeling good and aimed at achieving balance, but it is not a one size fits all. Things bring balance to us because they address a specific need, and unless you identify what you need you cannot successfully identify the solution.

 

“Your values lie at the core of your character.” –Tracy / Stein

 

Put Your Own Happiness First

3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

Are You Fully Charged?

Are you at the top of your game?

Have more energy than you need?

Is your work meaningful?

In recent research only 11 percent of people said that they have a great deal of energy. If you want to rev up your engine, read on.

One of my very favorite authors, Tom Rath has a brand new book called Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life. Tom is a researcher at Gallup who studies human behavior. You may know him from any of his five New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. From How Full Is Your Bucket? to StrengthsFinder 2.0 every one of his books inspires and challenges. We recently discussed what it takes to be fully charged at work and in life.

“The pursuit of meaning, not happiness, is what makes life worthwhile.” –Tom Rath

Maintain a Positive Attitude

You open the book with your own personal health challenge. How do you maintain such a positive attitude and strong work ethic in the face of the unknown?

I have learned it essential to focus on what you can do today that will continue to grow when you are gone. In reality, no one can say with certainty that they will live for a defined period of time. But we all have today to do something that improves the life of another human being.

You don’t even have to do anything that profound today to make a difference for someone else. The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts. If I have one great conversation today, do a little research or writing that contributes to something larger, or read a book to my son, those all add up in the way I think about a day where I am fully charged.

 

“The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts.” –Tom Rath

 

Learn the 3 Keys to a Full Charge

Three keys to a Full Charge include meaning, interactions, and energy. Are You Fully Charged?offers practical, easy steps to energize your life and become more effective. At the same time, I don’t think most of us think of our lives in these buckets. How did you develop this approach?

While I have also worked on research and books about life in a more general sense, this one focuses more on the key ingredients of a great day, for yourself and others. So I think of these three elements as little reminders of things I need to try and spend time on within a given day. As I talk about in the book’s prologue, this work has been deeply influenced by recent research suggesting that our daily experience functions very differently from our overall satisfaction with life over decades.

 

“Doing for others may be the only way to create lasting well-being.” –Tom Rath

 

Find Purpose in Your Work

FullyChargedYou say to “make work a purpose, not just a place.” What practical steps can company leaders take to make that a reality?

I think it starts by going all the way back to the fundamental compact between a person and an organization. Companies are now pretty good at quantifying the value an employee adds to their bottom line, but very few do a good job of ensuring that each person’s life is better off as a result of joining the organization.

So leaders need to spend more time helping employees to see how their daily efforts are part of something much larger that makes a difference. One way to do this is to help employees hear directly from customers and communities who are benefiting from their daily work. What matters is not just that we make a little meaningful progress each day but that each person also has a chance to see and perceive this through their own lens.

 

“Make work a purpose, not just a place.” –Tom Rath