Maybe money does not buy happiness after all

January 12, 2010

Interesting article and slide show found on CNBC. Here is the text:

As it turns out, some of the highest income states are among the unhappiest, according to a recent study by economists Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu, of the University of Warwick and Hamilton College, respectively.

Taking into account both subjective and objective factors such as sunshine, congestion and pollution in a survey of 1.3 million Americans between 2005 and 2008, the researchers determined which states have the happiest – and unhappiest – residents. Among the happiest are Louisiana, Hawaii and Florida.

“Some might be surprised that states in the south with lower income ranked as high as they did,” said Wu, economist at Hamilton College. “States with high income rate fairly low on the happiness levels. To some it might seem counterintuitive; it’s not just about income levels, but those places might be more crowded, more congested on the roadway, [have] less available land.”

For the slide show click on this link: The Unhappiest States in America

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In the end, it is all about happiness

November 11, 2009

Although we sometimes tend to deny it or to forget about it, but in the end all our actions are about happiness.

At work, people want to have a rewarding job, they want to feel appreciated and make the money they think they deserve, the boss wants to see good results, and the customer wants to get the proper quality. In our personal lives, we look for the right relationships, we have hobbies, and we like spending time with our friends and loved ones.

Why do we wish for all of the above and for more? The answer is simple: when things go our ways, it makes us feel good, it makes us feel happy!

Why do people change jobs? Why do people divorce? For these questions, too, the answer is simple: we change our lives when we are not happy about them.  Yet, not everyone makes such changes and some settle with the unsatisfying situation. Does this make sense?

It does if we listen to the theory of Henri Laborit, a French neurobiologist and writer who studied human behaviour when people face adverse situations. According to him, we have three ways to deal with unpleasant situations such as conflicts: running away, fighting back or inhibition. In the French movie Mon Oncle d’Amérique, we can see illustrations of his works thanks to a comparison of life situations with the lab experiments. The research background he shows are experiments with lab rats. In the first experiment, the rat is in a cage with two compartments separated with a wall with an opening allowing the rat to change compartments.  Only one compartment has a floor that can be electrified. The rat gets a warning with a buzzer and 4 seconds later the current flows in the floor.  Very quickly, the rat realizes that when it goes into the other compartment where the floor is insulated, it escapes the punishment and all physical tests carried out show that the rat is in perfect health. The rat is fine.

Then the operator shuts the opening between the two compartments, the rat cannot escape the punishment. Very quickly, we can see the rat being completely stressed with its hair straight up and breathing quickly. The rat is not doing well at all.

Then, they add a second rat in the cage, and both rats have no other choice than take the electrical current. Instead of getting stressed and ill, the rats fight with each other, and it appears that this helps the dominant one to be perfectly healthy again.

We face this type of situations everyday in our societies. Sometimes, we choose to run away from difficult situations such as quitting a job because of a bad boss, instead of enduring stress every day. We sometimes can fight back, even fight, although our laws do not accept violence as a way of resolving conflicts. When people have no possibility to run away or fight, Henri Laborit’s theory is that they choose inhibition and do nothing at all. They simply take the punishment. Some can compensate this by fighting with their spouses at home, but this usually does not bring much good, either. According to Laborit, inhibition is the stage of angst, and angst is the result of the inability to cope with a situation that seems to have no solution. This usually results in ailment and even diseases, be it physical like ulcers or even cancer, or be it psychological leading to neurosis or depression. Turning against the own body becomes the way of fighting back, and the ultimate act of violence, one can commit against oneself is suicide.

On the other hand, he also noticed that when the rat experiences something that brings satisfaction and pleasure, its natural impulse is to get more of it. If it feels good, then it must be good!

I believe that this illustrate nicely how important it is to always try to look for satisfaction in our lives, at work and at home.

Excerpt from Mon Oncle d’Amerique (In French)


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.


The ten signs of a happy person

September 6, 2009

Just hap-pyIn no particular order of course, you will notice that happy people:

  • Are in good health.
  • Smile and laugh often and look at others in the eyes when talking to them.
  • Are assertive, not aggressive.
  • Do not envy or criticize others, they have a positive attitude.
  • Make other people happy and are loved.
  • Have no addiction, they just do not need any.
  • Like what they do (personally as well as professionally) and they like who they are.
  • Are themselves and accept others the way they are.
  • Are not selfish or self-centered.
  • Problems do not seem to stick to them; they just deal with them.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, how many people do you know who would qualify?

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.