May 11, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
At the end of this month, I will be speaking in Copenhagen at a Happiness at Work Conference. This got me thinking about what it is that makes people truly joyous.
Business Insider gathered some research on this topic and amassed 36 Scientific Facts about happiness, some that may come as a surprise.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- You have to earn 2.5x as much money to be as happy working for someone else as you would be working for yourself: Perhaps that is why Forbes reported that approximately 543,000 new U.S. businesses are started every month. This is one of the reasons I work for myself. If I don’t like my boss, I only have me to blame!
- Greater rewards mean less motivation and poorer performance: “Researchers have found that people are sometimes happier and more effective when they do a task for no money at all than when they receive a small payment. If someone offers a good Samaritan $5 for helping with a flat tire, then he starts thinking about the actual market rate for tire-changing, so a fiver is now insufficient—when a minute ago, he’d have been perfectly content with $0.” I have written about this extensively in the past. See my article, I Won’t Work for Money.
- Happy people are lucky: Lucky people tend to focus on the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. For example, an individual arrived to an interview with his leg in a cast and mentioned that he had fallen down a flight of stairs. When asked whether he still felt lucky, he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before as he could have broken his neck. This is absolutely how I live, maybe sometime to a fault. I do operate from the belief that everything happens for a reason – I learned this from my father.
- Happiness is not a destination: I will be happy when I’m married, have more money, or move to a new location. This is what we tell ourselves. But the reality is that while these things can contribute to happiness, it is not as much as you may think. According to Web MD, achieving these milestones account for only about 10% of your whole happiness picture. “Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think — things you control — than with many of life’s circumstances.” This is the essence of my Goal-Free Living book.
Other studies show that people with more money are happy. But what is intriguing is that the researchers found that money did not cause happiness. Happiness was the creator of wealth.
What other things make you happy?
March 29, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
I have long questioned the practice of goal setting. My book (published in 2006) challenged traditional thinking about goal setting and discusses how we can not only succeed in business (and life) but to do so while achieving great happiness and satisfaction.
Due to its prevalence in business, this goal-free concept is often met with resistance. But apparently there are others that have challenged this conventional wisdom as well.
In a Harvard Business School working paper, the authors of Goals Gone Wild reviewed a number of studies that indicate that the ”beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored.” They state that the side-effects that goal-setting can have include a “narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation. “
One such study is highlighted in a recent New York Times article:
Three groups of participants were asked to create as many words as possible using random letters – similar to the game, Boggle. Two groups were given a specific goal to formulate at least 9 words. One of the two teams was offered a financial incentive for hitting this goal, the other was not. The third group of participants was simply told to do their best.
At the completion, the participants turned in only the answer sheets stating how many words they had created and had disposed of their worksheets. “But the academic researchers running the experiment had a code to match the worksheets with the answer sheets and discovered that both groups that had been given a goal of creating a certain number of words — whether or not money was involved — cheated 8 to 13 percent of the time. Those in the third group rarely did.”
To set goals or not to set goals. The debate continues.
March 25, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie…
Back in 2003 I drove across the country with no plans and no agenda. It turned out to be a life changing experience.
After that trip, I wrote Goal-Free Living.
In this video I discuss two concepts from the book: “Use a Compass, Not a Map” and “Remain Detached.”
December 12, 2012
Some will claim that a component to happiness and success involves detachment. That is, not worrying about how things turn out.
But this is easier said than done!
People want what they want. And the more you try to not want something, the more you focus on it.
How do you break this cycle?
While working on Goal-Free-Living, I discovered a useful way to become detached: Attach yourself to something of higher value.
That is, replace the “unhealthy” attachment with a “healthy” one.
For example, if you are in sales and really want to close the deal, you might come off as desperate or pushy. This usually prevents you from getting what you want: the sale. The solution? Attach yourself to serving customers rather than focusing on the sale.
Or, if you want to stop a bad habit, replace it with a healthier habit. Every time I tried to kick my Diet Coke habit many years back (I drank as much as 5 liters a day back in the late 90′s), all I could think about was the vending machine near my desk. When I chose to drink two liters of water a day (a healthy attachment), without worrying about how many cola’s I drank, my habit was immediately kicked. Yes, I still had a can from time to time. But the obsession ended and I could focus on work rather than soda.
In the workplace, this can have profound results.
Doug Busch, former Chief Information Officer at Intel once told me, “The best things I have ever done in my career came shortly after I decided that the best thing that could happen to me is that they fire me.”
This is detachment in action. Detachment is not indifference. It is about acting with a commitment to the future while focusing on the present. When not worried about “keeping his job” he could do his best work. He no longer played it safe.
If you are in a job interview, remaining detached would mean listening carefully and answering honestly, without concern about the outcome. You will come across as more confident and authentic. And then you can truly determine if they are right for you, rather than worrying if you are perfect for them.
If you are going to attach yourself to something else, make sure it is healthy. Some people, to avoid conflict, will avoid it altogether creating more problems in the long run. For example, some people will “attach” themselves to work so that they don’t have to deal with domestic issues. This isn’t a healthy attachments; it is a distraction.
How can you tell if your attachments are healthy? Healthy attachments should:
- be present moment focused and not about achieving a future objective
- have you engage and interact with others
- (potentially) be in service of, or contributing to others
- increase the level of honesty in your interaction with others
In the book I quoted David Wood the (then) Vice Present of Sales for the Americas for the Bose Corporation. He said, “I’m personally satisfied at the end of the day if I made a difference for someone personally; if someone’s efforts were furthered along with my help. I have this intense desire to feel like I have made an investment in someone else and the company. I am not driven by money or status. I’m not even comfortable partaking in privileged company benefits. Rather, I am driven by contribution, what I do, and the value I add.” This is a very healthy attachment. And it helped him be a successful leader.
How can you improve your life through the concept of detachment?
December 7, 2012
Today I am thrilled to share with you a 45 minute conversation between me and Oliver Burkeman, the author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.
I met Oliver several years ago. We got connected through a book review he did back in 2007 for the Guardian newspaper in England.
He opened his review by saying, “One of the most stress inducing books I’ve ever read is called GOALS!, by the management expert Brian Tracy.” Reading this, given my contrarian perspective on goals-setting, I knew I was going to like this guy.
Oliver concluded his article by saying…
“Contrast that with the insight of Stephen Shapiro, whose book Goal-Free Living makes the case that you can have some kind of sense of direction to your life without obsessing about the specific destination. ‘Opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly,’ he says. ‘While blindly pursuing our goals, we often miss unexpected and wonderful opportunities.’ That sounds a lot more smart to me.” (For those in the goal-setting world, you will appreciate his last point as being a poke at the SMART goals, advocated by many)
After reading this, I immediately wrote Oliver, and soon after we met up in a pub in London. I quickly discovered that he has a contrarian perspective on so many aspects of personal development. And he has a great (dry) sense of humor. I knew we would get along great.
Fast forward 5 years (after several meetings in pubs on both sides of the “pond”), Oliver wrote The Antidote. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to read a book. And I was not disappointed. After devouring it on my Kindle, I asked Oliver if he would do a podcast with me. Fortunately he kindly agreed. We did not discuss anything in advance. He did not give me questions to ask and I didn’t prepare any. It was a totally goal-free, in the moment interview. I think you will agree, he has some pretty incredible perspectives.
You have three ways to enjoy this interview:
- Listen to the audio (streaming):
- Download the audio (mp3) (right click to save to your computer)
- Read the transcription
Please share this with your friends. I am sure that after listening to this, you will agree that this interview can have a profound impact on anyone who is addicted to positive thinking.