Communication and persistence can make almost impossible assignments happen.

October 17, 2009

Some years ago, I got the project to set up a fish processing operation in Klemtu on the central coast of British Columbia. Some agreement had been made a couple of years earlier, as the whole project started with the set up of fish farms.

For the processing, we needed to not only equip the plant, but also train the staff of this small coastal community isolated on an island with no road connection to the mainland. Therefore, the logistics were quite adverse: an isolated island with about no choice of carriers except the one that had been appointed on a sea that is often dangerous to the point that barges do not even venture on it. The risk was that the fresh fish could be stuck and not be delivered on time. Of course, that would have been unacceptable for our customers, who were located thousands of km away.

When it came to the facilities, the local community was providing for the plant, meaning a very basic building with no specific equipment for salmon processing. In the plant’s yard we had to browse through a pile of old tables and pipes to figure out something. Since volumes were starting rather low, it would not have been sensible to buy automated processing equipment, because the cost per pound of fish would have been horrendous. Further, the isolation of the place would have made any call for a technician about useless, as it would have taken him a couple of days to be on the premises. All the work was to be manual.

The equipment was probably the easiest part, though. We needed to train the staff to modern food production and educate them about to all aspects of food safety and quality, as they had never been exposed to this. Everyone who has dealt with First Nations knows that they are dealing with a number of social issues and poor physical health and condition, unfortunately the result of past colonization and the destruction of their traditional society. As such, this exercise was a great way of merging two worlds and recreating a feeling of community between this village and the international food business including large retailers and food service companies in the US and Canada.

We developed the training program covering all theoretical aspects as well as the practical realities of fish processing. A few chosen crew members were sent to an experienced fish plant to get exposure to modern processing. We set up an exam to have an incentive for the potential employees to study our material. As it appeared the day of the exam, half of the students did not show up and someone explained to me that some felt uncomfortable with writing. Of course, this was an awkward situation and there was a chance of losing some of the workforce, which is not good when that workforce is already limited, and replacement not easy to find. I turned this around by giving only one collective grade. After all, I had repeated so many times that this would be teamwork, what better example could I find to illustrate that than giving the team the grade, instead of individual marks?

Considering how important it is to gut and cut the fish properly, I was more interested in the quality of the work than the productivity at first. Once they would master the technique, we could think of increasing the pace of the processing line. So, we started with the equivalent of half a truck the first day, and the second half for the following day. In a normal plant, a full truck was processed in five hours in those days. I was expecting that our first half load would be done in eight hours at most. The reality came out quite differently. After two hours, the staff got physically tired and I could notice that moment when all the shoulders started to drop. After eight hours, many of the workers went back home because they were tired. We finished the first production day in thirteen hours! The second day was even worse with some people not showing up at all, and it took 23 hours! The situation looked lost. However, my sense of persistence made me refuse to give up so quickly. I re-planned the next round of harvests to be only a third of a truck per processing day. This was the magical number, and from there, our staff was able to work within normal hours, and get more productive, while producing the proper quality. Within two weeks after this, they were able to process a full truck in 9 hours! What a turn-around! As production volumes were increasing, we were able to justify for the purchase of machines to help speeding up the operation and by then we were able to process fish as quickly as any other regular plant.

As time went by, some of the locals showed capacities to take charge of more and more things, and even the original agreement was clearly that management activities had to be carried out by non-locals, we created several positions that they could fill successfully.

Yet, beyond the business case, the most valuable experience for me had been to see activity coming back in a community plagued by 80% unemployment before this project started. Getting work did not only give them money, but it helped them become healthier, with many of the employees recovering from diabetes. The most important of all was a boosted self-esteem, as they found a new purpose in their lives.

They felt successful, happy and fulfilled again!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The ten signs that people are happy at work

October 9, 2009

In no particular order, people who are happy at work show the following symptoms:

  • Happy at work!They are happy to go to work; they do not suffer from stress or fear about it.
  • They smile and laugh at work.
  • They greet and interact socially with their colleagues.
  • They are rarely on sick leave, only when it is serious.
  • They do not think of leaving their employer.
  • They talk positively about their work, their boss and their company.
  • They bring new ideas to their colleagues and boss.
  • They have little physical or mental need to take a vacation; they are not burnt out.
  • They do not gossip and they do not do office politics.
  • Last, but not least: they are happy in their personal lives, too.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Just be yourself!

September 14, 2009

This is a prerequisite if you want to grow and be happy in life, as well personally as professionally.
Although it would sound like an easy thing to achieve, too many people seem to have difficulties getting there. Many internal and external reasons can explain that, but it is always possible to change for the best.

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

Why is being yourself so important?
Quite obviously, if you are not yourself, then who are you? Just this question makes clear that it will difficult to know who you are. If you think you are some of your role model, realize that s/he probably was him/herself, and that is why they got in that position of role model.
Moreover, if you are playing being someone else (like the example on the right), you will miss the opportunity to genuinely improve yourself and achieve higher fulfillment in life.

How can you be yourself?
This can take more or less time between people to find out, but it is possible and not that complicated. All you need is to have people you trust to give you candid feedback. You have to understand that even the most popular people are not perfect and that they have their insecurities as well. An easy way of discovering yourself it to find what you like most and what you like less in life. Capitalize on your assets and limit your liabilities. Accept your limitations and enjoy your talents! After all no one is talented in everything, and all you need to be happier is to do what you do best and like it. To find out who you are and to be yourself, you are just going to need to determine how much will, dare, capability and knowledge you have.

Deal with other people’s judgment!
Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion about other people, and most of the time it is based on very partial information. Most disputes are the result of a lack of communication, not of knowing each other well. I often tell the same joke about how lucky I have been in life to meet only great people who unfortunately for them all have seemed to be surrounded by idiots.
Realize that you cannot please everyone, and whatever you may do and whoever you maybe, there always will be someone out there to criticize you. The only feedback that counts is the one from people who really know you well, and that you trust enough to give you their opinion. Such an exercise is not about passing or failing, but it is about self-knowledge and possibilities of improvement. True friends will not shoot you down. In this exercise, they will tell you what you could be better at.
Also realize that it is better to get some bad feedback on who you really are than on whom you trying to be, because in that case, the information is useful for you.
If you find difficult to accept yourself, you need to consider two things. First, you are not the only person who feels that way; a large of majority of people tends to underestimate themselves. Secondly, most people have much more potential than they think; all they need is to take more chances. You need to show the world what you can.
Finally, always make sure that you are the one deciding for yourself. Peer pressure and your social environment, not even to mention marketing and the media have a very powerful impact on how many people think they should be. It is not to them to decide about that. Dare to challenge them. Also, realize that people who are themselves always attract compatible people, thus making their lives more interesting and fulfilling.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Are you living your dreams?

September 3, 2009

Dreaming your lifeFrom early childhood, we all have had our ideas and dreams about how life would be later. You know, when I grow up, I want to…
Yet, later in life, many people seem to have forgotten about these dreams or, worse, they have given up on them. This is sad, because there are not many things that can energize and motivate you as the pursuit of something very dear to you: being the person you always wanted to be.

Personally, I have been blessed with supportive and open-minded parents. They always encouraged me to pursue what I really wanted to do, if that was indeed good and important for me. The fact that they also taught me boundaries made such encouragements even more stimulating: if they supported me, I knew that it was because what I was aiming at was worth it. Consciously going after something meaningful is one of the most motivating things I can think of.

This has allowed me to be aware of my personality and of my possibilities at a young age, which made it possible for me to decide much of how my life would be like. Like everyone else, there have been bumps on the road once in a while, but knowing what I wanted always helped keep the course, and that has brought me lots of satisfaction and the privilege of living quite a few of my childhood’s dreams.
As I grew a little less young, I also discovered that dreaming is a work in progress. It is nice to pursue your childhood’s dreams, but sometimes, circumstances change, or the dreams appear to not be as realistic or sensible as they seemed first, and we left them aside. That is not really a problem as long as we keep the ability to keep envisioning who we want to be. With age comes more experience, more self-awareness and this is why it is never too late to think of what we want to be later. This process has nothing to do with any mid-life crisis, as that is something else, which is not about dreaming about the future; it is the mourning of the past.

I have been lucky to live most of my youth’s dreams and it has brought me to where I am today: a happy and fulfilled man who wants to make it possible for others to experience the same. It has made me able to look at my life in a dynamic manner and constantly think of how and in what I can grow further, and the ideas keep coming.

Who you want to be is the mix of what you love to do, what you do best, what your values are, and of where and with whom you want to make this happen.

The worst thing to do to oneself being not to try at all, and regret it for the rest of one’s life, the question that you must ask yourself is: Are you living your dreams?
If not, what happened then? More importantly, what are you going to do about it? Can you think of better objectives today, thanks to a better knowledge of yourself? What is keeping you from trying, and how can you overcome such hurdles? It is only by trying over and over again that one succeeds.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The Life Plan will help you increase personal fulfillment

August 4, 2009

Your level of happiness or fulfillment is generally a direct consequence of how much you live your life and live in an environment that matches your values.

Here at The Happy Future Group, we have developed our Life Plan program (see the presentation under “Personal Programs“) to help you identify how balanced your life and your values are, and from there we help you build your own specific action list.

The process is simple. To identify your values, you will confront your own findings with some of your friends’ assessment of what truly drives you. Involving trusted friends to participate makes this process more fun and more rewarding. It also avoids this search to feel like a questioning, and at the same time, it will give you a much more objective feedback. After all, every person is who they really are, but also whom they show and who others think they are. By reducing the discrepancy between these three apparently different persons, your level of happiness will naturally increase.

By assessing how much fulfillment the different parts of your life match your core values, you will get your own “fulfillment index”. From that index and its analysis, it will become rather easy and obvious what actions you will need to take to increase your level of fulfillment.

The philosophy of the action list is all about incremental improvement. Consider your current life as being the ground zero. Each action when completed will help you live more to your values, and therefore you will achieve progress one step at a time. The timelines are the ones you feel comfortable with. All you need is to fully commit to the process. Should you “soften” a bit, we will help you remember what you promised yourself to achieve.

All you need to complete this process to success is to have the willingness to make it work, to be yourself and to spend the necessary time and energy.

To be happy, you do not need to go up the mountain to find yourself. It is all here and now, inside and around you!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The confusion between perfection and excellence

July 2, 2009

Always betterWhen hiring people, I have heard many times their claiming to be perfectionists, either as one of their top three qualities or one of their top three “weaknesses”. Actually, it has always sounded to me like everyone wants things to be “perfect” all the time.
On the other hand, I very rarely have heard anyone mentioning the word “excellence”. This is strange, because many of the “perfectionists” are not really looking for perfection, but they simply want to do an excellent job.
So, what is the difference between the two terms? Actually, it is very simple. Since nobody can define what perfection exactly means, perfection cannot be attained, and therefore should not be set as a goal. On the contrary, excellence, because it is a dynamic and relative concept can be translated rather easily into performance objectives that can be quantified.
Perfection is the quest of an abstract absolute, while excellence is the desire to constantly improve. Therefore, the so-called perfectionists can be split into two groups: the bitter idealists and the driven achievers.
Members of the first group are easy to identify, as they are never satisfied and always have to criticize or blame something or someone for the according-to-them unsatisfying performance. What is also remarkable is that they never seem to make mistakes and they are in never the cause for any problem. They tend to have a negative attitude and they never are happy.
Members of the second group are quite different. They, too, are difficult to satisfy, not so much because performance is below expectations, but because they see ways of doing better or of having been able to do better. Their attitude is generally positive and they are always ready to go again to improve things. Their main motivation is to do beat the previous record and certainly to always beat the competitors. They also do not waste their time blaming, justifying or criticizing, and if they realize that they performance is not good, they will feel mortified and they will take action themselves to correct the situation and meet their goals. Their drive and their knowledge that tomorrow is the other day when they will do better keeps them optimistic, happy and stimulating.
So, if you want superior performance, choose your group! Be enthusiastic, shake things, never give and deliver the goods! Do not focus on why things went wrong, bring solutions and fix the problems!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


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.


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.


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.


The meaning of life

May 11, 2009

Some subjects have the ability to keep you busy for a while. The title of this article is one of them.
The problem with it, though, is that the answer is really difficult to find and cannot be verified for sure. Depending on whether you are a scientist, a theologian, a philosopher or a hockey fan, the way you will answer this question will vary quite substantially.

The Meaning of Life

Therefore, this question remains mostly an intellectual exercise, which can be satisfying, but it lacks practicality.
Instead of tormenting oneself with the absolute answer that no one can find, maybe because there is no such absolute answer, this topic can be dealt with in a much more stimulating and practical way.
All you need to do is to slightly change the question, from “What is the meaning of life?” into “What meaning do I want to give to my life?”. This simple shift of scope can do wonders, and quite rightly so, because it now offers you the possibility to become your own Creator, thus shifting the scope of another difficult quest for absolute truth that has kept mankind busy for eons.

There are a few simple steps and simple things can help you creating a very meaningful life:

  • Identifying which values are really important to you.
  • Identifying what makes you feel alive.
  • Taking the initiative, instead of letting your environment make the decisions that will shape your life.
  • Persisting when you meet resistance.
  • Always identifying the positive signs and remaining enthusiastic.
  • Taking the opportunity to learn and improve.
  • Venturing out of your comfort zone.
  • Not being afraid of setbacks, as they are part of life anyway.
  • Making decisions and keeping moving on.

Giving a meaning to your life is all about pursuing fulfillment and finding gratification in your activities, and this as much in your personal life as well as in your professional life. If it happens to fill a universal significance, too, then that will be a nice addition. However, you must build your life for yourself first, because all that counts is that your life means something to you.

The worst thing would be a meaningless life, wouldn’t you agree? But that can happen only by waiting and not taking action. So, live, experience, try and share!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The shift from negativity to positivity

May 11, 2009

Unfortunately, negativity takes quite a toll on too many people.
It brings an array of feelings and emotions that are eventually destructive. Yet, there are simple ways of dealing with negativity and move towards a much more positive approach of life.

 

Picture1

Negativity is used with different meanings. In many cases, someone will be labeled as negative, just for being critical, which annoys the person who is challenged. This is why calling the “challenger” negative is an easy way to dodge what may be a difficult discussion.
This is not what I mean by negativity in this article.
What I mean is the attitude that reduces anything and everything to an almost impossibility to do and achieve anything, a systematic refusal to even consider undertaking. It is the preference of the unsatisfying status quo above the potentially riskier change. It is loaded with negative experiences, such fear of failure and of rejection.
Negativity does not bring anything good in life. It leads to inaction, frustration, even sickness and depression.

Nonetheless, negativity is not a final condition and it can be turned around without to much difficulty. This, however, does not mean without effort…
The first step is to recognize that you have landed into negativity, and to have the desire to change this. Very often, this where most of us can feel “stuck”. How to make the switch to positivity?
A very important aspect of turning things around is to not isolate yourself, which is common when you do not feel too happy about yourself. Let the people that you trust that you are willing to change for the best will bring you more support than you would think, and for a simple reason: people who like you suffer of your negative mindset, too, and they will be more than willing to help you become more positive. So, do not hesitate to let your closest friends and relatives know what you are doing and have them get involved.

A really good way to deal with negativity is to increase your level of self-awareness. Every time you realize that you have a negative thought or reaction, just say “stop!” and rephrase your thought in positive language. For instance, instead of saying “that won’t work” ask yourself “how could I make this work?”.
Also, have your friends participate in this and allow, even mandate them to be the ones saying “stop” and ask you what you think you should have said instead. This method can actually quickly become a very playful experience and stimulate you to do more of it. After a while, you will already realize how much better you feel and how more optimistic you have become. This exercise is like gymnastics of the mind and brings good results.
What also works very well is to focus on the successes and not spend too much time on failures. By celebrating the victories, you will create a dynamics of enthusiasm and success, which very quickly will by far outweigh the attempts that went wrong. This will grow your appetite for more victories, as well as your refusal to accept defeat and fight harder next time to achieve your next success. There again, support and help from trusted friends and family makes this process faster and more effective.

Life is a constant challenger of your will, of your aptitude to dare and of your knowledge and abilities. This is how we grow, feel better, and achieve fulfillment. Take on the challenge and make your life fun and exciting!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Success and happiness: which came first?

May 11, 2009

I have heard and read about this question quite a few times, without getting a very clear answer, though.
Probably, this is because the question as such does not really address the core of the issue it wants to raise.
In my view, both success and happiness originate from the same, and grow in a very similar way.
In order to be successful and happy, you must start with shaping your life around your core values, and not around those that your environment imposes on you. Only by doing so, you will be able to choose and develop activities that, both professionally and personally, can bring the fulfillment and the enthusiasm that are required in any successful endeavor.

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Success can be a rather difficult concept to formalize, as its definition depends greatly on what you consider important for you in life. For some, this will be making lots of money, for others it will mean have a family, it also could be gaining a position of power or reach a certain social status; it could be becoming famous, and so on.
If you try to eliminate the subjectivity that goes together with the variety of values, a good definition of success that I have heard is that “success is to bring what you start to its completion”. I personally like this definition, because it describes very well the whole process that is necessary to reach the required satisfaction to feel successful.
What, to me, reinforces my conviction that success and happiness go in parallel is that you can write the same paragraph above, just by replacing success by happiness and the text will make just as much sense.
It is quite difficult to try to see a relation of cause and effect between the two concepts. Indeed, if you are not happy, can you feel successful? In the same line of thought, can you feel happy if you are not successful? You probably cannot.
Next to engaging in activities that match your values and working on bringing them to completion, a very important aspect for both success and happiness is to get others involved as well. Never hesitate to ask for help, for support and for feedback. You will never have enough of those. Other people’s input is very valuable to stay motivated and determined, as well as to avoid losing track.
A great way of increasing your level of happiness and success in life is to first envision what the ideal world would be. What would you do if you were the one who could make things “perfect” for yourself? Once you have defined this ideal world, you can start developing your own plan. Although in some cases, a drastic change could work, I would recommend having a step-by-step approach, as a drastic change all of a sudden could bring a lot of uncertainty and chances of failure that not everyone can handle. Set your targets to go from point A (where you are today) to point B (your ideal world). Define each step clearly and set realistic and rigorous timelines to this plan. Timelines are quite important because they will force you to keep taking action. Not doing so will always end up in inaction, because we are all very good and finding excuses to postpone what we prefer not to do. Another important part in the execution of this plan is to designate someone (friend, coach, family member, etc…) to remind you, to enforce these timelines and if needed to reprimand you, because there again, if you can get away with procrastination, chances are that you will indeed.
To sum up, the way to happiness and success requires the following: build your life around your values and choose the environment in which they can flourish. Have a plan to improve your level of fulfillment. Share the enthusiasm with others. Celebrate every success along the way. Do not forget to ask for assistance to make sure that you will not divert and give up on your plan.
This last point is actually quite important: many people feel unhappy because they have given up on their dreams.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Too old to change. Or was he really?

May 11, 2009

As the Sales Director of the poultry plant, I also was managing our sales office in Germany.
The problem with that unit was that it had not generated any new significant customer for years, and as we were growing aggressively, we needed to grow in Germany as well as we were in our other markets.
Many discussions and meetings further, I came to the conclusion that the German sales office was simply useless and that we should sell to the German customers directly from our plants in The Netherlands and in Belgium.
Of course, this was a very bumpy situation. My superiors trusted my judgment, but were quite afraid of losing business in Germany (our largest market), which the General Manager of the sales office was of course not missing to tell them over and over. After all his job was on the line…
Anyway, the decision to shut the sales office was made and we had to figure out the next step.
Most customers were very old relationships, and this was important to take that into account when deciding who to appoint as the sales person for Germany. From the whole office in Germany, we decided that we should keep only one person for sales, the nine other employees would go.
There were two inside sales persons, and two sales reps. Quickly, the two inside sales persons did not make the cut and were eliminated. The 2 sales reps were very different. One was a young fellow, quite aggressive, well-connected and able to move large volumes, although quite a bit of a loose cannon, and with the tendency to yield to the customers when it came to price. Lots of volume but not much margin.
The other sales rep was in his early 50’s, a very good relationship manager, but with no track record of developing new accounts for a long time. General opinion was that he would get good prices but low volumes. General thinking was also that he was to old to change and adapt to the new strategy, and would be useless to the organization.
Yet, I chose the latter sales person, even though I shared the same worries as everyone else, but I knew one thing: he would listen and do as told, and he would bring a sense of continuity and trust to the existing customers.
We decided to keep him, and I would spend quite some time in Germany with him, visit all existing customers and accompany him in some new prospecting activities.
I presented him the sales plan, the objectives and the timelines and there we went. He simply became the best salesman we had. From a very apathetic and almost unproductive salesman, he turned into a dynamic, entrepreneurial and enthusiastic representative that brought new business, and lots of it. In the first year, our sales grew in Germany by 24%, while the industry average was only 2%. His performance was stimulating the other sales people, including me, to perform better in their respective markets.
He was not too old. He just had lost passion, because he had no clear idea of what was expected from him. In the new structure, this changed, and then he could do what he was good at: selling! And he did a great job, because by then he had become happy at work!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.