In this personal piece Impact’s Senior Consultant Liz Wilson shares some thoughts on happiness.
The most important job I've ever had is to train my two children in how to be happy – I think that's a parent's job. To teach them to laugh (at themselves more than anything else), to let things go, to enjoy making other people happy, to get pleasure from achievements and acquisitions, but - perhaps most importantly - to be profoundly aware of the value of everything they've already got. What makes me happy is seeing them be kind to their friends – letting someone else have the last glass of juice or the first go on the X Box. Doesn't happen very often, mind you!
The other things that make me happy? Making people laugh, being made to laugh, making myself laugh! Five episodes of Mad Men in one night. A massive scone. Dancing and singing (really well) while I get ready to go out. Knowing I've done a good job and people are pleased with me. These things.
I don't struggle to get up in the morning – I'm always late so I have no choice! I immediately go for 10-minute run – up the hill and back. It makes me feel I can eat cake all day. Then I wake my children up and they are beautiful, warm and quiet and anything is possible – this might be the day when I don't end up wanting to sell them! One day it will actually be that day, I hope!
I have eliminated from my life pretty much anything I don't want to do (excepting some basic household chores). I talk to people who make me feel good about myself and give me energy. I do work that stretches and excites me beyond anything I imagined possible. I ask for what I want with confidence and I know I'm going to be OK, whatever happens – or that I'll survive at least, with the love of the people I love. I eat what I want, but in moderation. I drink a glass of Prosecco and it feels like high living luxury. I tidy a shelf and feel ridiculously proud of myself!
I think happiness, just like leadership, is a capacity we all have – that we can work on and develop and learn to notice and nurture in ourselves and other people. It's a cliché, but it's true, that nothing can make you happy. I think I've learned, in some very difficult ways, over many many years, how to be happy and what a modest, humble and personal thing that is. As I write this I feel full of the happiness made possible by my children, my friends, my work, and my unfathomable and unearned good fortune to be born where, when and what I was.
Liz’s suggestions for how to stay happy at work:
- Accept that your happiness is only your responsibility, not anyone else's. Unless you are actually in prison, work is not a prison – the door is always open and we all have a choice. If I'm choosing to work somewhere I should be able to articulate why I am happy to stay.
- Be a role model of the culture you'd like to see at work – you will bring people along with you. And if you continue to feel like a square peg in a round hole – move on! Always check that you are being yourself.
- Keep noticing if you are actually getting a thrill from what you're doing – are you regularly uncomfortably excited? If not – why not!? Get out of there! Or make it more, make it different!
- No-one will ever mind if you take on more, if you do something new and brilliant, if you suggest something new or put your hand up or apply for an outrageously ambitious role. If they do – get outta there!
- Be curious about people, rather than being personally affected by them – you will meet all sorts of people and you won't like them all! Don't let other people project their negativity onto you – be interested, try to work out why they are the way they are, can you help them to be happier? Know what's your s**t and what's someone else's s**t!
- You do a better job of anything when you can laugh about it – whatever it is, keep laughing.
- Strive to make other people look good, always – there's huge pleasure in that and it will come back to you over and over.
- Tell people what you like about what they've done, thank and congratulate them and be specific. We might as well all do as much as we can of what we're best at – so we need to know what it is! And if someone's making things difficult or unpleasant for you, or for themselves – tell them that too, in the same spirit.