Take control of your time!

June 23, 2009

As such, time management is quite simple and yet many people seem to have a serious problem with it.
What counts the most for an effective management of your time is to have control on what happens or can happen during your day.
Juggling all the timeThe best way to achieve this is to make a short plan of the activities you want to be done before the end of the day. Remember that failing to plan is planning to fail.
Next to that, you also need to create the conditions to be able to carry out this plan. This means that, although you need to be flexible and adapt to some change of plans, you also must not forget about your priorities. Assertiveness is quite useful for this, because very often disruptions come from other people asking something from you. Be helpful to them, but also make them understand that their request will have to fit in your schedule just as well. Sometimes you will be able to accommodate your own priorities this way, and sometimes you will have to accept that their request comes first. Nonetheless, always try to negotiate an acceptable give and take.
Another important part of effective time management is to not get distracted by unnecessary and useless activities. How many people seem to have the need to check if they have messages on their cell phones or on their email? There is no point about checking obsessively every other minute. Turn off the device and focus on what you need to do. Sometimes, isolation is the most effective way of completing your to-do list.
Remember that the best reward for your effort and discipline is that all the things you had to do are done. They are off your agenda, and this is one of the greatest feelings there is: mission accomplished!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


“Want to” vs. “Have to”: What it means in happiness terms.

June 9, 2009

Want to or have to?It is rather easy to sort people in either one of these two groups. They have very specific and very different behaviors.
For the “Have to” people, everything seems to be a chore. They do not seem to have much fun in life and certainly even less at work. They are the ones that get up in the morning dreading going to work, they hate Mondays and they desperately long for weekends. Their heads and backs are bent under the overwhelming weight of the world they have to (of course) carry on their shoulders.
On the other hand, the “Want to” people seem quite happy, they enjoy what they do (of course, since they want to). They are upbeat and do not seem to carry any heavy burden. The positivity that they exude has nothing to do with the amount of work or the lifestyle they have. All the difference is in their attitude.
The “Want to” people enjoy life more, simply because they have made choices. They have taken charge of their lives and have shaped it around what provides them with fulfillment. Unfortunately for them, the “Have to” people have not reached that point, and they tend to let their environment (boss, family, friends, TV ads, etc…) decide for them what they have to do. Indeed, living somebody else’s life can be tiring and frustrating.
Yet, making the switch is not very difficult, and the best is to start with simple things. What activities, either personal or of a more professional nature do you like to do and provide you with satisfaction? Pick one or two for a start and make a habit of them. The fun that you will get by carrying out these activities will be the best motivation to add more of them in your life.
All it takes is to make the first move, start gradually and persevere. Just take charge of your choices. There is no need and no rush to change everything at once; after all, you have your whole life to reach your goals.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Empathy: the gentle way to get things done

June 4, 2009

Reaching outEmpathy is one of those qualities that is acknowledged as being important, but for which there is little training given. One reason probably is that empathy, like some other personality traits, one is born with it more than one can learn it. Yet, there are certain patterns that can be acquired and help people interact with their fellow men better.

What does make empathy so effective in interpersonal relationships?
Empathic people come over as more gentle and get their way more easily, because in the interaction, they take the other side’s point of view in the picture. This makes the other party more receptive to your arguments, as they have the feeling that the outcome is not a win-lose but a win-win situation. What empathy does is create a sense of mutual respect and mutual benefit. This is true as well in private life as at work.

How can someone learn to become more empathic?
This is not a simple process, as empathy is not a skill, but part of one’s personality. The starting point will always have to be the acknowledgement by the person that he/she needs to improve. To understand the impact they make by lacking empathy, they need to see how other people react to their behavior. A good way to do this is to have a video of how they interact with others. Another powerful way is to have them role-play with an instructor who will expose their behavior. Like many issues related to personality, nothing works as well as immediate feedback and correction. They also have to be able to ask themselves “what’s in it for the other party?”, as they soon will realize that they can achieve much more when their counterpart gets something out of the “deal”. Making a list of the needs and wants of both parties before going to a meeting or negotiation can be very useful, as at least the person has to put him/herself in their shoes.

How to deal with low-empathy people?
In my view, the best way is by using your empathy and figure out what their motives might be. It is also very important to be quite firm on what you want and to not give away anything without getting something in return. Assertiveness is also a powerful tool: tell them how they make you feel and what you think about that! However, the most powerful tool of them all is very likely to make them feel that they will lose more than gain by not changing. Low-empathy people do not like losing anything.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Tip: Make their day, they will make yours!

May 11, 2009
Here is a simple way to make yourself happy. If you do it only once, you will be happy for a little while. If you do it on a regular basis, the feeling will get much more permanent.

All you need to do is to give positive feedback or a compliment to someone when they do something that you appreciate. Of course, this works only if there is a genuine reason and if the compliment is genuine as well.
Flattery or hypocritical compliments will not have the same effect. Although it probably makes the person who receives it happy, it will not provide you with as much fulfillment as it does when it is meant.
For instance, this week I wrote a recommendation on LinkedIn about a former colleague. His reaction was quite positive and a few good things have happened since then.
An other example was yesterday: I went to a drugstore to buy something that I had seen on ad in their flyer. I could not find it and I asked an employee for help. He went in the back to see if they had any in inventory, which they did not and he offered me to write a rain check. He did this with so much professionalism that I was quite impressed. When I left, I had to compliment him on how helpful he had been. The smile on his face just made me feel really good about myself, too.
I made their day, and their response made mine as well. Even if it was about rather mundane stuff, the return was above any expectation.

So, go ahead! Give good people around you the genuine positive feedback they deserve when they do something right! It does not matter if it is in your private life or at work. You will feel great about it, and I bet that you will repeat it in the future.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


How to be happy

May 11, 2009
A few days ago, I saw on CNN the title of one of the topics of the day: “What really makes people happy”. A whole program!
Of course, this being a dear topic of mine, I clicked on the link and read this article, written by a collaborator at the Oprah Magazine. If it is linked to Oprah, it has to be true.

Well, I read it, and like most article on the subject, it gives a number of examples of what makes some people happy. It also refers to some professor and some science about hormones, since we have to try to explain everything. It mentions the connectedness between people, and being involved in something bigger than yourself. To that, I yawned and said blah blah blah, because once you are finished with that article, you honestly have not learned much, if anything.

So here we are, with a bit of science, a bit of spiritualism, a bit of humanism, a bit of metaphysics trying to find the absolute recipe for happiness, the ultimate quick fix. And out there, you can find an army of people who try to sell exactly that. This is just like the get-rich-fast-and-safely non-sense. It does not really exist, and that is a good thing, because that feeling of earning what you have is so much more satisfying!

Happiness simply does not come to you that way!
In my life, I have helped many people to express their potential, I have opened their eyes, I have transformed their lives for the best, and I have made them achieve things that they did not even think they could ever do. And I have developed all those “techniques” on myself as well. Therefore, I know firsthand what works and what does not.
And here is the simple truth about happiness: there is no universal or absolute method on how to be happy. However, there are a few truths about the process of becoming happier.

Happiness is being in balance with yourself and your environment
balanceIn order to be happy, you need to know yourself. This sounds obvious, and yet because of lack of self-awareness, many people look for answers in all the wrong places, and can spend their whole lives being unhappy.
Then, you also need to know your environment. Who are your friends, your relatives, your colleagues, your neighbours. Do you really want them? Are they bringing you what you are looking for? Are you in the right place or do need to consider a change? And is that change about your environment or about you?

You must incrementally meet your needs and your values through action and objectives
Everyone has his/her very own and very specific cocktail of values, needs, desires, goals and dreams. It comes from their personality, their upbringing, their education, their social circle, you name it. This is why what makes one person happy does not necessarily bring any satisfaction to someone else.j0438395[1]The first step to increase your level of happiness is to identify the ingredients of that cocktail. The following steps are about setting targets on how to meet those values and needs more as time goes by. Trying to satisfy needs you do not really have, will not work on the long-term. Just look at a child at Christmas: the new toys are exciting the first day, a bit less the next day and soon they will be boring. The toys met a short-term desire, in most cases inspired by outsiders, especially marketers, but did not answer a true deep wish. And I am sure that you can find many similar examples of meeting the wrong needs. It might bring short-term satisfaction, because a nice surprise is always nice, but it will not last because it is not the right answer.
Having objectives, or you can call them wishes, desires, dreams, is of utmost importance to be happy. It gives a feeling of purpose to your life, and therefore to you! Objectives are powerful drivers to grow and gain wisdom. If you doubt this, just try to imagine having to spend the rest of your life with no goal at all. How does that idea make you feel?

This is not a passive process; you must have a plan, practice and train regularly
To do the above, nothing beats making a plan. It has to be a plan shaped around your values, in which you will determine your needs and set up a number of steps and set time lines to achieve them.happy
Happiness will not fall upon you per accident. If you want to be happy, you need to want to be happy. Nothing nice will happen to you unless you initiate the process and keep its momentum going.
Happiness will not stay with you, unless you nurture it. You have to work on being happy on an ongoing basis. If you stop your efforts, you will see your level of fulfillment drop over time. Being happy is an active process, and just like sport, your performance at it will decrease if you become complacent. And this is where so many fail at happiness: it takes discipline and persistence.
Happiness is not about being in a state of permanent bliss. It has its ups and downs. Being happy does not mean that you never experience negative feelings like disappointment or frustration. This happens, and it happens to all of us. But truly happy people know how to find the resources to overcome such negative feelings, to refocus on what will make them feel good, and take the proper action to correct that temporary setback.

So, now you know how it works. Have you noticed that I do not bring any explanation that involve money, religion, spiritualism, love, friendship, meditation, science or any of the so many terms that usually are used when talking about happiness. That is simply because they are all valid, but they are not all valid for all of us. Everyone must choose what works for them!

For those of you interested in the CNN link here it is: What really makes people happy

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Happiness and IQ

May 11, 2009

Is there a correlation between happiness and intellectual capacity? I had to think about this lately, as I had posted a poll in the Mensa Yahoo! group of British Columbia.

bulbIn my life, I have heard this question often and I also heard all sorts of answers, varying from one extreme to the other. Yet, there seems to be a majority of people who seem to think that intelligence is an impediment for happiness.
After all, even in the Bible, we can find a similar idea. One of the beatitudes says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
Then, is it easier to be happy for the less bright ones? I will let everyone figure the answer that suit them, but here are my thoughts.

First, I would like to get back to the Mensa poll. For those who might know what Mensa is, Mensa is an organization that gathers people who are among the 2% highest IQ in the world; its purpose is quite noble, as it aims at using the members’ intelligence to improve the world we live in. I am quite glad that I passed the test, and moreover I have been a happy person for most of my life. After some time in that group and getting slightly annoyed by the pretentious and condescending attitude of some of the members, I decided just as a tease, but also out of curiosity, to post that poll, asking:

“Do you think that having a high IQ makes it:
A. Easier
B. More difficult
C. Indifferent for you to be happy?”

 

I was not surprised to see that a majority answered B to the question, although my poll certainly has no scientific value whatsoever. And that brought me to wonder what the advantage would be of being smart if its cost is not being happy.
Fortunately, there is no correlation between IQ and happiness. One is happy if one chooses to be so.

Only the ones who want to question everything and see the glass half empty all the time will not find peace, because there are plenty of reasons to find imperfections. Maybe, what makes some think that the simpler minds are more easily happy, is just the fact that they may spend less time trying to analyze every little detail and just enjoy thing for what they are.
However, this does not have to be limited to simple minds. People with high IQ can just do the same, all it takes is the right mind set. Even if you analyze things, that does not hinder you from seeing the good and the beautiful when it comes under your eyes.
I came to the conclusion that the unhappy “brains” probably just suffer from negativity and maybe of a lack of self-esteem, that brings them to focus more on the negatives than on the positives.

How sad is that, to have a great brain and use it in the wrong way? Well, who said that intelligence and high IQ were the same?

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Signs of a good company culture

May 11, 2009

You know what they say to job candidates: you have only one chance to make a good first impression! This is valid for a company, too.
Regardless of any PR work done or how well crafted their website might be, nothing compares with just the possibility of walking around and watching.

First, take a good look at the surroundings. Are they inviting? Is this a place where you would like to spend half the time that you are awake? If the place reminds you of a hospital or a prison, you probably do not want to work there, unless of course the place is a hospital or a prison.
Nothing spells sadness more than empty silent corridors with closed doors. A high-energy high performance place is alive. It is buzzing with people and communication, and generally most doors are open.
Another thing that catches my attention is the presence of those business posters on the wall. You know, the type that will celebrate the virtues of teamwork or of customer service. Unless they have been placed by the employees themselves, it might be a good indicator of the management style and communication style. Instead of leadership by walking around and frequent contacts, the company probably prefers totalitarian regime-like propaganda. Some of those posters are really pretty, though.

In Good CompanySecondly, just observe the people. In the great places to work for, people exude happiness. They will smile at you in the corridors and they will say hello. Beware of the workplaces where you will not even get eye contact, forget about a smile.
A good place to go for a quick assessment of the culture is the water cooler/kitchen/coffee machine. When you pop in, watch what happens! In a good company culture, you can be sure that the employees present will look at you and greet you with a smile. If, instead, your arrival causes the voices to turn down or simply stop, with straight faces and an awkward silence, then you can be pretty sure that the discussion topic is not about how to beat last month’s results.
A brief chat with the employees will show you the company culture. In a good company, people are genuine and enthusiastic; when they talk about their workplace, you can see their eyes and faces come alive and do not be surprise if you have the feeling that they try to convince you that you should work there, too.

In a good company culture, everyone makes sure that the workplace is friendly and inviting. The main signs of a good company culture are happiness and absence of fear! And this describe exactly the “happy” (using vicious would be inappropriate) circle. Fostering happiness and fulfillment increases the commitment of the employees and their performance. They will go the extra mile for the company without asking anything (well not much) in return. They will not watch the clock to decide when to go home. They will leave when they have that sense of completed work. The absence of fear allows the employees to be more entrepreneurial and to dare more. This increases the performance of the company, reinforces its competitiveness and, success breeding success, this creates more happiness and fulfillment in the workplace. Full circle.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.