The serious business of happiness

How does society become seriously happy? There are so many diverse components yet at core happiness must be simple, desirable and accessible surely?

Yesterday I was in the audience for the launch of Action for Happiness, and it was a wonderful space, great energy and buzzing with passion and fervour to embrace the possibility that individually and together, this movement can supercharge thousands to discover, uncover and recover happiness – and, with courage, dis-courage those naysayers from damaging the effort.

Some 4000 hits per minute on the web site, interest comes from most countries in the world (with a notable absence in North Africa and Russia, the map was covered) and with majority signed up coming from the UK, it’s happy-making to know we are leading the way!

The panel of experts was mostly men, which I found greatly encouraging and you can read more. I say that because if the men in power are to listen, it occurs to me that a majority lead from well-know male players will build a case for serious transformation. It is key that is both men and women asking for a happier society.

The question for me is “can such a gathering force of local activity influence in a major national (and ultimately international) way” specifically in areas such as education and health. The answer was not obvious other than make a louder point by ‘voting with our feet’ – less than satisfactory to me as the leaders of this afternoon were closer to official ears than I!

Could we transform the baseline criteria, the policies and systems that came from Government and which strangle the potential to seriously embed and integrate a organic spread of happiness into our lives and the lives of future generations?

I do believe we can transform our world and it lies within our grasp, within the commitment of individuals and the bubbling collective bond of communities. We need committed players in all arenas local, national and eventually internationally. Action for Happiness is a brilliant starting point to draw together initiatives, grassroots energy and proven studies from eminent parties such as Anthony Seldon, Geoff Mulgan and Lord Layard. Excellent start with the appointment of Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness, this charity aims to lead the way.

My own personal reflection of the event was that although the focus was ‘happiness’, there was not a great deal of mention of love. Love in a pure unconditional form fuels happiness surely; the love between people, the centre of family growth, and the base of emotional ground needed to seed a happiness culture.

I believe ‘love’ is really our central theme and the fundamental quest when we seek to build a better happier UK and world. If either ‘love’ or ‘fear’ drive all other emotions (and we know that is so) then surely healthy happy emotional intelligence is a positive ingredient for a high happiness quotient? We must create a collaborative natural conversations that embrace love in our world. That is the context out of which happy language, relationships, communities and individuals can grow!

Let’s take a view from the Dalai Lama who says: “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.

I think we should take a big leaf out of his sense of happiness from love.

Can we create a new blueprint for life that delivers sustainability, security, and safety alongside family values, social equality, high employment, shareholder profit, and happiness without mentioning love?

I believe we can. But we may need to step outside of our own way; instead of doing happiness – how about YOU taking responsibility to BE HAPPY with every aspect of your life! YES every part!!

Set off random ripples of kindness today

What one small action could you do today that would ripple out to many people? A random act of kindness is the start of a ripple – a smile – a helping hand – and who knows who might enjoy receiving your love. Start by liking yourself and knowing your best. Then you’re ready to ripple!!

Try it … feel the random ripples already coming your way!

Many years ago, in the 90’s I worked with a fabulous woman and together we ran a very successful programme called ‘High Impact Communication’ and the essence of it is still at core what I deliver today as an underpinning to all personal and professional development – making people feel great about themselves… that’s the best way to start a ripple. We worked with men and women, young and old, senior and junior, across all sectors and it was fun and spread happiness as well as buckets of improved performance. It was hugely successful.

At the core was a simple cycle of effects created by each person – the ‘me’ factor. And it sounds egotistic and all that, but it isn’t. It simply knowing yourself, warts and all, loving yourself, body and mind, heart and soul; and taking simple actions to start your ripple. I now call this our ‘value cycle’ i.e me, you and me, us (we). Everybody gains when we ripple our best in a loving way.

In our workshops, we would comment on that fact that the ripples either gently or at speed, spreads your ‘best’ into the pond of (your) life… it sounds trite but it’s not. It’s pure and honest… and we used to say “and when it reaches the banks (of the pond) it ripples back. Now that’s the honest truth of ‘random acts of kindness’. You don’t know where the ripple goes and who it reaches and when it’s going to turn back on you!
So make sure that your ripples are all that you wish back!

So today what random acts of kindness will you ripple… or maybe see these as random ripples of kindness making a river of happiness?

Yesterday I smiled at every person as I walked to the tube, the sun helps and I had a bright spring in my step as I love living where I am now overlooking the river at Richmond. I have landed on my feet having changed what most people would think was a painful stuck process into a glorious process of re birth! This is my garden view, how wonderful is that!

I find myself laughing as things occur. A funny text, a colourful billboard, a fascinating shop window, all things to lift my spirits. The blossom, the trees, the river, my walk to the station, the different routes I take to get to places that are familiar. Using the train to go places I used to drive, all makes me energized and excited. I am like a kid reborn! I find myself being more chatty with strangers, offering more help when needed, being generally more engaged in what’s around me.

Last night, returning home, I witnessed a random ripple of aggression – a verbal attack at the bus stop between two men…one angry because the other pushed past. The ripple was abrasive to my whole persona, my physical body shrunk back. The ripples hit the bus queue out and back. It was a sad punctuation in an otherwise lovely day.

I’ve learned that I am the start of the ripple and if I want everyone to ripple loving actions and thoughts … I have to walk my talk and be loving in every action and thought. This is the choice I make everyday I wake!

What’s your choice today?

Happiness needs a SMILE

Take notice; ‘Action for Happiness’ is having their launch event on Tuesday April 12th, sign up and come along, I’ll be there smiling! At last we’re taking happiness seriously – it isn’t wealth that makes us happier, it is something that comes from within us and through many simple actions and collective mindsets.

Since I was 17 years old I have been writing about smiling and the wonderful benefits it gives us all.

It started in an old exercise book, where I wrote my diaries from a young age. I was naïve; gauche; happy go lucky; a chatterbox, yet shy when it came to ‘going out’ with boys. I sat one night in my bedroom reviewing my teenage looks with despair… yet admiring my SMILE. When I smiled “I felt good – and it seemed to have a good effect on others!”

Simple, effective, logical, I set my stall to be happy. I reflected at the time “I don’t know why some adults don’t smile, as it makes life difficult when they don’t!”

Was I too simple in my early philosophy ? I don’t think so.

My core values in life are harmony (born out of my early smiling), abundance (I learned this as I grew up middle of four, in an essentially happy well-motivated family) and independence (being 3rd/middle child, I learned that to be a bit of a rebel early on and was always encouraged to stand up and be counted)… and the attitude of smiling grew with me into my adult years.

It made it easy to connect with people, even when I felt shy and had to meet with strangers. It helped me to broaden my views now later in life as I work to build healthy happy teams, groups at work, whole communities in the work place and in society.

With the public face of happiness now well researched across the world, the Positive Psychology school of thought and action, and the talk of the BIG SOCIETY, we have more opportunity to embrace smiling in our life. However, I feel many people are too challenged by increasing austerity. How is simple is it to turn our attitudes around?

Let me give you a simple proven example of how smiling works…

I was running a team away-day for a large HR group in major public sector a few years back. We had worked with the individuals in different ways, with profiles, group work, practical and specific assignments, growing their confidence about themselves and each other – and this was their last big day all together.

A review, a learning day, a fun day, a bonding day – and a surprise exercise surprised us all!!!

1. At lunch we spilt then into teams of 4 and sent them out into the daily chaos around Waterloo Bridge/ Southbank, London area.
2. Their task – to take photos of themselves with strangers and those photos to be happy ones!! (Some people looked a wee anxious.)
3. The assignment was that they had to be in the photo as well.
4. So they had to engage with and request in a way that attracted strangers to take part. Only 30 minutes to get this achieved – so no hanging about.
Stunning results returned. All were surprised how much people reacted positively, how much fun they had, how much smiling and laughter emerged. Energy in the team had raised several hundred fold, all felt so proud of their work and shared with ease… and the exercise was remembered for years to come.

How simple is that!

All ages can smile, all different types of people, styles of people, diverse minds and different bodies, can all smiles…. And indeed we can smile in every language. It has to be genuine, a smile that emanates from within and from a place of truth, pure heart and unconditional love; an authentic, totally honest smile!

What do you do to take happiness to heart, do you smile naturally every day and make a difference to someone else’s day?

Live in this moment

Where is our life now?
It’s always just beginning,
as each moment is new
and the last one is finishing.
There’s always a choice,
a way to decide,
whether this moment is precious
or just one that dies.
‘Life’ is this moment,
and no more than a speck,
a flash of immortality,
a chance we select
to behave as best we can,
to make sure that we care
in a way that brings happiness
for the world which we share.
To live in this moment
holding memories of the past
gives richness to a future
that will last and last.

Compassion is human business

At a time of unprecedented strife and uncertainty in our world history, it is time to take stock; review and resolve the core question ‘what is a good life?’ How do we, as men and women of all types, ages, cultures, creeds and abilities, come to the table to explore this, describe this, and create this without strife and argument? Is life and love important or does money and material gain drives us to exclusion of happiness itself? What is enough for each person to hold a meaning for life that is the best for them?

Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival. –The Dalai Lama

I believe in our endless capacity to love each other and to seek new ways to create a buoyant, abundant, compassionate world were all count. I know in my deepest essence that I am part of a whole existence that covers not just this day, but all the past and future that is. I share the responsibility for our world and see the natural energy of co-creation with us. Working with men and women in diverse arenas, generations and situations, I see men and women holding the two halves of a whole solution, yet not creating a new blueprint together. Is it that, stuck as we are in an old pattern that does not serve us any more, we stubbornly refuse to believe that there is another way – and that the way forward could be easy as we each make choices in our hearts rather than in our heads.

In Donna Thomson’s new book ‘The Four Walls of My Freedom’ she says

“The life that we value and have reason to value is one that has at its heart caring and belonging. If life is a pie chart, money is only one slice. The care of vulnerable citizens is a corporate act on the part of society; it’s not just the job of social workers. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes every citizen in every village to help sustain each other.”

Donna writes about her beautiful son Nicholas, who was born with cerebral palsy and is now 21, and how her journey and her family’s experiences alongside his own have been a magical, sorrowful and yet extraordinarily rewarding journey of love and determination. In reading her book manuscript, I encourage you all to read it for the powerful insights it brings on the whole social change we must explore if we are loving compassionate human beings. It is not only about major disability but a window on the vulnerability we all may experience one day. In finishing the book, I experienced a new perspective on our societal responsibility for the vulnerable in our world – a perspective that is not just to observe their presence and pay others to tend them, but to take full caring responsibility economically, politically and emotionally without condition or resentment as individuals and as a local or global community. If we are the materially-able contributors, we must be truly loving partners in the wholeness of life rather than be singularly selfish in greed of money and fear only our own situation. In seeing the whole we enable ourselves too.

My own philosophy of life and business

I am ‘me’ i.e. my natural self, and knowing ‘me’ is my first journey. If I love myself, respect and honour my life, I can share ‘me’ with all I meet in an open, respectful and loving manner; and all relationships are therefore down to ‘me’ and my flow in honouring others at all times (even difficult times). So together, ‘me’ and ‘you’ can thread all our respective relationships together (‘us’) and grow open, respectful loving communities (‘we’) that give everyone a sense of belonging and joyful inclusion and meaning of life. Giving to each other becomes a joy and capabilities shared are our abundant table of rewards which don’t have to all about salaries or financially orientated. The rewards can be a mix of material wealth and emotional joy.

My life rewards; emotional, spiritual and material; are therefore plentiful merely by ‘me’ being conscious of my own natural human gifts, by own my ‘being’ and ‘doing’ the best I can everyday.

I don’t need to try to be someone else – a different type of women, a bitch business women, a subservient wife or mother, or a victim lover; I can be all my roles as ‘me’ – a mother, grandmother, business women, writer, dancer, lover, friend, sister, daughter …all facets of ‘me’ naturally. I call this my “value cycle”, which becomes simultaneously “our community value cycle”. This can only spin more brightly if fueled by unconditional love from every ‘me’ into every community I am a member of. Do you honour “who you are” rather than the money you earn or the wealth you possess?

If we are to transform our world in all aspects of life – to be consciously committed to all human beings, to our families, our communities, our nations and our planet – then everyone matters in this “value cycle”; the able-bodied and the dis-abled-bodied, the advantaged and the disadvantaged, the young and the elderly, the healthy and the infirmed, men and women of all nations across the globe are each part of the whole. Yet many are still marginalized on our own doorstep.

What struck me about Donna’s story is that we will always exclude the vulnerable from our future plans for business transformation if we believe that business and life are separate.

I believe they are actually inseparable. And most women I know believe the same. Women know this from birth to death, their emotional imprint, born into this world, is to care and nurture all their lives and often not their own first. Women are, in the majority, the carers in the world, and are more likely than not to be caring for a dependant at some time of their life. I have an amazing Mother of 92 years and although currently well-cared for and reasonablely stable, is always on my mind as she reaches the end of her life. One call and my brothers and sister will be tumbling back into the concern we had last year when she was hospitalized many times and we felt we might lose her.

“everyone is some mother’s child”,

Women are often seen as the vulnerable players in business world, and are still marginalized on pay and opportunities, and for ‘having babies’! Yet women work all their lives without being measured for doing so. In the business model created by men, ‘giving life’ and ‘caring for life’ has never been factored in as a ‘credit’ value on the balance sheet. Yet “everyone is some mother’s child”, motherhood is a key ‘credit’ in creating new generations of men and women. Without mothers, we would have no generations to build this world for and on whose shoulders we will lean on graciously as we grow old. At the end of our lives we will without exception become a vulnerable member of society ourselves, men and women, as our elderly years decrease our ability to function. We are then no longer an employed person, a business man or woman, an active mother, father, student, academic, Politian, scientist and the like. Does our ‘usefulness’ to society disappear because we become a cost to society? Does our life depend on whether we ‘worked’ for our living when maybe we couldn’t or not to any capability that counted? Surely we are still part of the same world we built. We are still human beings.

Our business model to date seems to say that “that which cannot be counted for business is not useful”.

Business is always looking for cost equation, efficiency, bottom line profits, measurable improvements, tested quantifiable resources. Value seems to be only counted in when it can be quantified in £££s. Yet more and more we realize new sustainable business will grow due to two key aspects – wonderful relationships and good emotional behaviour – these count and can often not be counted in £££s! However we feel the pain both financially and emotionally when these two aspects are not present or rotten to the core. Money and measure are two obstacles in our way of finding a good life for all.

Albert Einstein said “Everything that can be counted does not always count; and everything that counts cannot always be counted.”

The question is – does life matter to business – or is business separate? Is business part of the whole and making money merely one of several spark plugs that drive the engine of our society and our care of all? Can we merge fiscal mechanisms with emotional fuel to drive future sustainability and abundance, care and compassion for all of us?

Over 200 years of business growth and industrialization of our western world, we have allowed material wealth and physical and intellectual power to count for more than emotion, to the extent that these dominate the complex matrix of our lives. Economically for sure we are driven by financial needs; politically we have created rules and regulations which often strangle the less advantaged, in policies, tax and allowances; and socially, we are suspicious of many factions in society, especially the divide between those who have and those who have not; those who can contribute financially and those who can’t. Paid work is the still the main criteria for “useful existence” in many sectors and most people’s eyes. Disability, motherhood, dependency of the elderly and ill-health are all seen as burdens on those who pay the bills. The vulnerable are seen as useless in the money game yet money does not buy us what is most important – unconditional love and happiness. We will all be vulnerable one day before we die. Maybe the original blueprint was OK back in the 1900s, but now we have a new horizon and the edge of the world is coming fast towards us. A new more compassionate, consciousness blueprint pervades our common desires. Men and women need to design this together.

Business is part of the pie-chart but money only one part of business.

The consequences of the global financial crash, the on-going recession and rising population demands continued to create chaos across markets, in our communities and in our very homes, the sanctuary that should be our place of harmony and happiness.

Men and women, families and parenting, education and dependency factors, and social cohesion are, for me, all on the pie chart of discussion alongside business. If we want harmony and joy as drivers for change then we need to open our minds to men and women co-creating the new blueprint together and counting human happiness and joy as a valuable part of human business evolution.

Money doesn’t buy happiness.

That is not to say wealth and good fortune cannot create joy as well. But money is only piece of the pie chart remember – it is about the whole that we seek redress. Women know that life is key to business and men had not planned it that way over many decades, so even though many top business leaders wisely see the value of emotion in business there is no ‘measure’ that everyone accepts as real. The selfish ethic of gain through effort rewarded is still core to the world we experience day to day.

How can we measure what is immeasurable? How can the vulnerable be accepted as core to the human business model and transform our hearts and souls to embrace all?

“Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present” Albert Camus

How can we ‘generously’ transform our core business model to embrace men and women, life and social needs? Does business have to stand alone in a male task focused measureable way? Can we shift our thinking so that intangibles are factored in an interdependency model rather than an independence or co-dependence model? We need a model, a blueprint now that merges what men and women want, and that counts in vulnerable contributors for their emotional giving rather than seeing them as ‘debits’ on society’s balance sheet.

If we explore a change of mindset, using magical conversations, maybe we can set a tangible value on happiness as a key contribution to the state of our nation, and truly valued this emotional essential alongside physical tasks, competence and hard work. I propose that we piece the ‘pie-chart’ together in a loving compassion abundant yet practical manner.

Can we lead a truly compassionate business experience day to day that creates a society that truly cares? For this to happen, I believe that women need to own their core natural differences that contribute magnificently to business and life. They need to honour their own wide range of capabilities as different types of women, support each other both as business women and mothers (as desired). I believe that men need to recognize the power of the natural woman, of all types from masculine task focused women to feminine softly focused women, all whom complements men’s male energy and bring a flexibility and emotional dexterity into business success in ways that men cannot do alone.

Don’t forget, we each are unique, beautiful and perfect as human souls; we are all the same and all different.

Nicholas is perfect in his own existence; he is only vulnerable because society makes him so and his condition brings him an existence of pain and challenge on a daily basis that many of us can never imagine. He is courageous in his determination to live. Can we be as courageous to transform business so it takes on responsible approaches to life so that all who are vulnerable are valued in equitable ways?

We will all be vulnerable in some way at some stage of our lives and don’t let it be too late when you turn around and wish for the future we can embrace right now.

Magical Conversations set out a new way to explore the unexplored; to journey into “what is a good life for all”; to bring men and women together to merge their experiences and viewpoints and gather everyone’s contribution in a magical manner out of which anything can happen. The first London based Magical Conversation commences July 22nd 2010. A review will be posted after the event. Your comments welcomed.

Welcoming 2010 with Wisdom

Socrates says ‘Wisdom starts with wonder’ and what wonder do we see ahead. 2010 opens up in London with a blue sky and a bright outlook. For me this year brings new hope, potential opportunities for men and women, for business and social enterprise, for communities everywhere, a possibility for happiness and abundance. I have often been accused of a naive optimism and a child like wonder about human beings and their natural capability and courage to overcome all obstacles and find happiness!! I don’t intend to change! The new year for me holds a wonderful sense of world scope for change and maybe a touch of magic. For those who are willing to look with wisdom, insight and radical innovation – looking forward and not getting stuck on the past solutions, rules and restrictions, there are endless possibilities, economically, socially..even politically with a UK election on the agenda!

However the world is a tough place and many people have had a challenging 2009, and I believe we have to work together to make a difference. Now our choices and responsibilities move into a higher consciousness about life and work. It is time to strive with collective and personal intention to co-create a new way of being, a healthier way of working and a far more inclusive society that embraces positivity, abundance and collaboration.

I offer a few intentions that I and my team are commited to deliver to help create a balanced sustainable enjoyable wealthy healthy world – one that our children may enjoy and inherit!

Our intentions for 2010
1. To help build a sound economy where men and women of all ages, creeds, dispositions and personalities, and co-create a new way to sustainable measurable growth
2. To embrace social responsibility within the work culture of the UK and create work cultures that enable people to thrive personally and professionally rather than just survive
3. To reduce all stress and ‘bad behaviour’ at all levels of business, from boardroom to shop floor, that causes demotivation and unhappiness at work and so improve both employee satisfaction and customer service and loyalty in one move!

In order to ensure these intentions come into being, we have a few key values that need to be embedded; honour, respect, trust, encouragement, happiness, love and true collaboration; Let’s…

Honour all human beings, men and women equally, for their natural talents, and build a true meritocracy.
Respect men in current leadership positions as providers, operation and solution finders and show them how happiness and work together can generate results that count
Encourage women to grow and flourish in business as females using their full range of skills, their natural empathy, business flair and collaborative skills
Build business teams to embrace and trust both masculine and feminine attributes in the business mix, teams that value male and female needs, and ensure both integrate to deliver the best service and best profits.
Co-create business communities in the corporate global world and in the entrepreneurial world that collaborate, communicate and connect across sectors, to share resources, knowledge and best practice building magical conversations that deliver results for the long term care of our planet!

In 2010 I invite you to join our magical conversations that we are starting across the UK this year; conversations across boundaries, bringing corporate leaders, philanthropreneurs, researchers, academics, leading experts, wise mentors, ‘sisters’ and ‘brothers’ of all diverse groups, to explore, reflect, review, align, innovate and embed a new language of loving practice that sets a higher consciousness about life at work.