be happy when...." is the way many people think they are
living their lives. Yet, happiness is not something that happens
to you. Happiness is inside you now. You are motivated from
within. You only have to allow happiness to surface.
Happiness = K
(knowing who you are) X D (discovering your life's work) X L
(learning not to tolerate what's not important).
That's the formula
for happiness--know yourself, your true calling and that you get
what you tolerate.
Happiness is being
aware, not only of the positive events that occur in your life
but, that you yourself are the cause of these events--that you
can create them, that you control their occurrence, and that you
play a major role in the good things that happen to you.
Happiness, said Benjamin Franklin, "is produced not so much
by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by the
little advantages that occur every day."
off in the future, but in living in the "now" and
loving the moment of our daily experiences. We form an
impression in every business or personal interaction. In the
business world, we don't speak much about the heart. Yet, the
purpose of doing our life's work should come from the
heart---since all businesses are ultimately people serving
people. We all need connection, belonging and meaningful
The paradox of
happiness, as stated by Viktor E. Frankl in The Will of Meaning,
"To the extent to which one makes happiness the objective
of his motivation, he necessarily makes it the object of his
attention. But precisely by so doing he loses sight of the
reason for happiness, and happiness itself must fade away.
Success and happiness must happen, the less one cares for them,
the more they can."
in life have little to do with the satisfaction we experience.
Health, wealth, good looks and status have astonishingly little
effect on what the researchers call "subjective
well-being" according to The "Science of
Happiness" by Geoffrey Cowley (with Anne Underwood) in
Newsweek, September 16, 2002
amassed a heap of data on what people who deem themselves happy
have in common. Mood and temperament have a large genetic
component. In a now famous 1996 study, University of Minnesota
psychologists David Lykken and Auke Tellegen surveyed 732 pairs
of identical twins and found them closely matched for adult
happiness, regardless of whether they'd grown up together or
apart. Such findings suggest that while we all experience ups
and downs, our moods revolve around the emotional baselines or
"set points" we're born with.
In his book,
"Authentic Happiness" (Free Press), University of
Pennsylvania psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman tells us that
happiness is not about maximizing utility or managing our moods.
It's about outgrowing our obsessive concern with how we feel. He
says, "The time has arrived for a science that seeks to
understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and
provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the 'good
lies what he terms "gratification," the enduring
fulfillment that comes from developing one's strengths and
putting them to positive use. Half of us may lack the genes for
bubbly good cheer, Seligman reasons, but no one lacks nascent
strengths or the capacity to nurture them.
man is born into the world whose work is not born with
him." James Russell Lowell
At certain times
in life, people take stock of where they are and where they want
to go. Deciding what is important to us in our life's journey,
including where we may be stuck, is the way to begin this life
planning. The gift of knowing who you are and what you are meant
to do gives you the energy to transform your life.
To begin the
journey of knowing who you are, take some self-assessments to
understand your personality, preferences, learning style and
emotional intelligence. Read "Now, Discover Your
Strengths" (Free Press, 2001) and take the StrengthsFinder
assessment to discover and strengthen your signature talents.
The use of
self-assessments is based on the reasonable assumptions that:
people have different ways of seeing and acting in the world.
2. These different
ways of seeing and acting have consequences on our effectiveness
differences can be identified through self-assessment
4. Personal change
is possible and desirable.
As individuals, we
each have a personal perspective on the differences between
right and wrong----between good and bad. Our sense of ethics
comes from our assumptions/beliefs, values, vision and guiding
principles that make up our unique identity. These are the
primary factors that affect and control our actions.
Writing down your
unique identity elements will help you better understand why you
do the things you do. Here are the definitions of the
'intangible identity elements' that form the foundation of your
identity-driven behavior. Being aware of your unique identity
gives you the ability to choose how you wish to act in your
personal and professional lives:
An operating mental model or reality map formed through
reinforced experience. This would be a manifesto of the mental
models you use and believe in to create the future of your work
and personal lives.
An emotional word picture of a future reality leading from now
through near to far reality. Energizing people to support your
purpose with an overarching description of what the leadership
sees the organization becoming in the future is not an easy
An attitude or world-view depicted by one word or one single
concept observed through one's behavior. Values often influence
people's choices about where to invest their energies. Leaders
must establish a hierarchy of values and beliefs and articulate
what matters---or employees drift away from the organization's
core competencies, which reduces the company's competitive
Principles: A universal
operating standard that guides decision making both personal and
organizational. Leaders use guiding principles to align, create
trust and walk the talk by putting everybody on the same playing
field. Energy is not sapped up in the politics of the
organization because there aren't different rules for everybody
at each given moment. Principles are guiding beacons that create
consistency and trust.
Working on the
intangible "inward" elements (your personality,
preferences, leadership style, signature talents,
assumptions/beliefs, values, vision and guiding principles) is
what it takes to become more aware of one's identity. Once you
know who you really are, and can articulate your
"purpose," you are ready to cross the bridge to a
tangible action plan that gets you where you want to be.
Many people make
the mistake of developing tangible action plans without first
discovering their unique identity, signature talents and life
purpose--- and then wonder why it is so difficult to move
"inward" is difficult, it is recommended that you
travel this unexplored territory with a personal coach. As
humans, we are complex and may need a guide to help us in our
life discovery and change. Developing a life signature, the
tracing of the talents we are given and how we express them in
our lives, can provide a mental model or compass toward
discovering and living our purpose.
Should you decide
to discover your life purpose alone, here's a tip: Many of us
believe we know how the world works rather than just perceiving
how the world works. Our individual perception forms our
reality. When beginning on this journey of discovery, be aware
of your "inherited or conditioned purpose" before
attempting to come up with your true life purpose. Your
inherited purpose (which flows from your unconscious beliefs)
tends to have these characteristics: is based in fear (your need
to survive in the world), is your default mechanism, operates in
the background (where you are not aware it is there) and is
lacking in satisfaction/fulfillment.
happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg
Remember when you
believed that you could change the world? Where are those dreams
and aspirations of youth? You may feel you are now ready for a
life makeover but are not sure what the changes should be. But
you know you want more than what is.
Po Bronson, author
of "What Should I Do with MY Life" (Random House),
tells us that some people keep from finding themselves because
they feel guilty for simply taking this question seriously. Many
people feel guilty for obsessing about what kind of work they
should do. It feels self-indulgent. Yet, people succeed by
unleashing a productive, creative and focused energy that flows
from the inside-out to work at things they love doing.
We live in an
economy where we don't have to tolerate jobs we hate. For the
most part, we get to choose. But that choice isn't about a job
search so much as an identity quest. So, don't be cursed because
of your tremendous ability and infinite choice of jobs. Decide
what you can devote your life to and then live your dream.
There are too many
smart, educated, talented people operating at a slow speed in
jobs they are just tolerating. They have put their dream in a
lock box so they could go out an make a ton of money to support
the big house, the fancy car, the summer/winter place, the
private schools, etc. The unfortunate outcome of following this
path is that they become emotionally invested in that world--and
don't really want to ditch it by opening up the lock box and
letting their dream surface.
Sooner or later,
we all yearn to break out of our secure harbors. The heart moves
beyond the familiar and convenient into more adventurous realms
of possibility. If we don't break out, our future will always
remain in the hands of someone else...not as something we claim
fully as our own. Living our life with a deeper understanding
draws us to realize our ideals, walk our talk, and act in accord
with what we know to be true is to live our dream.
are the touchstones of our characters." Thoreau
people by articulating a dream they hold that elicits optimism,
compassion or a sense of connection---aspirations that point
toward a hopeful future. Resonance flows from a leader who
expresses feelings with conviction because those emotions are
clearly authentic, rooted in deeply held values.
In medicine you
look at how "well tolerated" a drug will be related to
its side effects. At work and at home, many people evaluate new
opportunities related to what can be well tolerated. Yet after
life, most people don't want their tombstone to read, "He
tolerated stuff for other people because they paid him."
Especially, when we realize that we can make more money and have
more fun doing work that engages our passions. Life is too short
for doing work you don't enjoy for people you don't respect.
founder of Microsoft Corporation and the world's richest man,
says, "You know, the notion that a kid who thought software
was cool can end up creating a company with all these smart
people whose software gets out to hundreds of millions of
people, well, that's an amazing thing. I've had one of the
luckiest situations ever. But I've also learned that only
through focus can you do world-class things, no matter how
capable you are."
July 2002, tells us that Gates, then 46 years old, devotes most
of his time to what he loves best: namely, communing with the
geeks who actually build Microsoft's products. His new role
plays to perhaps his greatest skill---that uncanny ability to
foresee how emerging software technologies can be woven together
and parlayed into must-have "industry standard"
products, which, in turn, reinforce demand for other software
from Microsoft and its allies.
Says bridge buddy
and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett: "Bill has found a
rhythm in the three areas of life that he really cares about,
and that's terrific. In business, in philanthropy, and in his
personal family life, he has what he wants, and it's all
Microsoft chief technical officer for advanced strategies and
policy, explains, "Bill's unique gift was always the way he
does this complete and continuous synthesis. It's like he's a
pipe, and all kinds of stuff goes in at this end and a
continuous output of optimized strategy comes out the other end.
What we are designing is critical infrastructure for everything
digital going forward--business and government systems,
communications, entertainment, you name it. The complexity of
the challenge is unprecedented, but that just gets Bill's
competitive juices flowing. Bill has three modes in meetings,
which you might describe as listening, challenging, and
coaching. He's gotten better at coaching in the past couple of
time for more than three decades, physicist Julian Barbour has
come to a fascinating and counterintuitive conclusion: Time is
All that's real
are instants that Barbour calls "Nows." Our brains are
hardwired to take the experience of these "Nows" and
create the illusion of time. "If you try to get your hands
on time, it's always slipping through your fingers," says
Barbour in the Summer 2000 issue of Spirituality and Health
magazine. "People are sure it's there but they can't get a
hold of it. My feeling is that they can't get a hold of it
because it isn't there."
Even if physicists
eventually accept Barbour's theories, his ideas will, like
quantum mechanics itself, be thoroughly understood by very few.
Still, to the rest of us, they offer a powerful metaphor to
reflect on the moments of our lives and how we might best live
them. As Barbour says, "to see perfect stillness as the
reality behind the turbulence we experience" is good for us
all to learn.
Focusing on what
matters, moment by moment (rather than thinking of reality as
what happens when a series of still pictures runs through a
projector), helps us reach clarity. B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D.,
tells us not to overlook the importance of attention. By
refining our attention, we can focus and thereby rediscover the
sense of well-being that emerges spontaneously from a balanced
mind. Research tells us that geniuses of all kinds shared one
mental trait, despite the wide range of their individual
brilliance: They all possessed an exceptional capacity for
sustained, voluntary attention.
Dr. Wallace's wife
taught Tiger Woods at Stanford University before he emerged as a
superstar of golf. What most impressed her was his powerful
ability to focus---a skill that has evidently contributed to his
golfing achievements. Woods uses his talent of sustained,
voluntary attention to maximize his strengths (his extraordinary
long-game and putting skills) and minimize his weaknesses, like
that of chipping out of a bunker.
To a degree, we
all have an innate talent for some activity. By focusing our
attention on building the strength of our unique, individual and
enduring talents, while applying damage control to our
weaknesses, we can choose to move from satisfactory performance
to excellence. When we know what our principle talents are and
how we might apply them to our life purpose, the application of
attention allows our focused energy to push us toward success.
"John G. Agno is a certified executive
& business coach and president of Ann Arbor, MI based
leadership development firm, Signature, Inc. He can be
reached at www.MentoringandCoaching.com