What you really need to be ok

Financial security. A healthy eating programme. Those sales numbers. Control. Meditation. A drink. To be right. That holiday. A promotion. This partner to love me. The kids to behave. Or all, or none, of the above?

To need: to require something because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.

So what is an essential need? Really. At what point do we draw a line and say ‘that’s essential, this is desirable.’

Of course we don’t.

We move through life, listening to what others say we need. Or we hear what they say they need and then we want to emulate that so we try and get it too. Or maybe we reject it, not wanting to be seen to be like them. read more

Why should we be happy?

Seeking happiness seems to be the thing to do. These are the messages all around us: Go on this holiday to be happy. Eat this food to be happy. Get this job to be happy. Have the perfect family life to be happy. The research would say we’re wired to go towards pleasure and away from pain and therefore we should seek a life with maximum happiness. But could this be an over-worked concept that isn’t serving us? read more

Life is LITERALLY what you make it

It really seems like that person is irritating / lazy / slow at their work / makes lots of mistakes.

Or that this other person is amazing / so capable / always on it / full of great ideas.

It really seems like this situation is upsetting, or that one is fun.

That this one will make me cry, or that one will make me laugh out loud.

It seems like these are definites.

But when you see that our minds are entirely like projectors, that definite-ness shifts.

Nothing, ever, in our whole lives, has “made” us think or feel any of those things.

All those people and experiences are 100% neutral until we experience them through our thinking.  We are a projector, not a camera, and always have been.

Life is LITERALLY what we make it because we can and have always experienced life through our thoughts.

The thing that makes these experiences seem so convincingly true and makes them seem like they’re coming from outside of us is that we mostly agree about what’s upsetting or fun and what counts as irritating or amazing.  We get taught these rules from the moment we enter the world so our thinking around people and situations is mostly very similar.

I witnessed it the other day in the supermarket. Someone talking to a baby.. “oh that’s better, there’s that smile” because clearly the baby not smiling wasn’t good or acceptable. Or at least that’s the message the baby – and we all – received. The thought that the baby attached its identity to.

But then you meet someone who doesn’t see things the same way as you.

A common reaction to these people is to find a way to not be with them.  The greater the differences the more we’ll psychologically or intellectually fight or run away from them.  Our ego likes to be right and certain and these people who remove such certainty and who challenge our right-ness are a danger – or at least our ego thinks so.

I ran some happiness workshops recently and while most people were in agreement about the stress and pressures of diaries and conflicting priorities, about the difficult people and demanding bosses, the high expectations and reducing budgets…there was one person who was different.

“You all seem to be thinking about this stuff far too much” he said.

“This is just work.  You come in, do your best with the time you’ve got, you close things off well for the day, you go home and you do other things”.

Most of the group held onto their own views and saw his as strange, or dismissed this difference with “well you must have an easy job” or “you mustn’t have the pressures that I have in my job” or, I’ve no doubt some were thinking, “your work isn’t as important as mine”.

As far as I know this guy hadn’t had any special lessons in how to get the most from life but he really seemed to have a good appreciation for the nature of Thought, and that when you really see that, your thoughts naturally drop away more easily and bother you less.  When you see that the feelings thoughts generate don’t need solutions life gets easier, more obvious and more fun.

Notice for yourself. Next time you find yourself confronted by a different view, see what it’s like to notice that thought and not follow it or hold onto it as if it were the truth.

Can you see what’s going on?

A friend shared this with me today.  Her political leanings being very much on the side of Corbyn and despairing at what she saw as Cameron’s arrogant attitude.  But this post isn’t about which side of the fence you sit on or which leader you favour.  This is about cultural norms.  The way we do things round here.  And how blind we can be to how we are.

When I watch the video I despair at politics as a whole.  When I watch this I see people (I’ve chosen not to use the word men) behaving like children in a playground, sneering and jibing at each other.  One bully boy gang against another.  Yes they wear suits.  Yes they speak well.  Yes there’s no physical aggression.  But the way people behave in that place – where they decide how our country’s run – fills me with horror.  Emotional intelligence is so far off the bottom of the scale it’s at arctic-level minuses.  And decisions are made to satisfy egos, prove points and just to beat the other side.  Nothing to do with ‘the right thing’ for the UK.

And it’s always been the same.  To those whose work lives are there, this is their norm.  It’s been done this way for so many years they know nothing different.  They probably don’t see any need to change it – in fact they’re most likely proud of their traditions – and even if they did see the need it might feel too big a mountain to climb.

Now this might show an extreme of example of poor behaviour and ineffective communication and decision-making, but there are versions of this all round the country, in organisations up and down the land, where egos and beating the competition matter above all else.  Where there might be no awareness of a need to change.  And where even if there was it might feel too big a mountain to climb.

If you work in one of those places – and even more so if you’re responsible for leading one of those organisations (and I include HR with that leadership responsibility) – make a start to change.  Do one thing.  Because one thing is closer to better than if you do nothing.  It might be that the first thing you need is for someone to come in with fresh eyes to tell you how it is.  You might not be able to see it for yourself because it’s what you’ve known for so long.

Then, once you’ve started, keep taking steps.  Keep doing one more thing.


And in case you’re wondering, this isn’t about ‘going sot’ and letting people do whatever they like.  You’re still running an organisation that has stuff to achieve and people need to work to achieve it.  This is about behaving like relationship-filled, passionate humans who have the ability to think and achieve brilliantly together when given the right environment, development and support.

If UK productivity, and levels of *[engagement / happiness / better lives], are going to have any chance of improving we need to start with one thing.  Now.


*delete the words you don’t like


This is me………..www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk


What’s in a title?

I came across this post on Twitter today and it was the motivation I needed to blog about something that’s been in my mind for a few weeks.

I agree with the fundamental premise of this post: if you give people a more impressive job title they’ll feel more important and do a better job for you.  (What I agree with less is the dubiously manipulative use of this knowledge with the sole purpose of getting more out of people.  Thanks Phil Willcox for highlighting this.)

I was thinking about this recently when I was behind someone in a shop queue with ‘Barista’ written on the back of their shirt.

At some point it wasn’t good enough to be a waiter or a coffee shop assistant, we had to create a new job title that would have the people who make that coffee feel more important, and maybe help us customers feel OK about spending £3 on a hot-water-based drink. read more

#EQSummit – Thoughts about Happiness and Ego

Last week was the #EQ summit which I would have just loved to be at! Thankfully Alison Smith, Sukh Pabial and Phil Willcox were there and have shared some great content.

One post by Phil got me thinking. Especially the bit to do with happiness, so these are my thoughts as I’ve got them out and onto ‘paper’…..

There are two types recognised in Positive Psychology – Hedonic happiness and Eudaimonic happiness, which Alan Wallace called ‘Genuine happiness’.

Phil noticed that neither type of happiness was labelled as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, although the name ‘Genuine’ does suggest that Hedonic is therefore false or not real.

And in many ways that is true. Hedonic happiness is the type of short-lived, happiness buzz we get from an experience – buying a new pair of shoes, driving around in a fast car, going to a fancy restaurant, going on a rollercoaster, getting to 1000 Twitter followers…. As well as the buzz Phil mentioned we get when, for example, we see someone happy from the appreciation we’ve just shown them.

For the moment, I just want to explore the first group of stuff…..

This is the materialistic, man-made-reliant, experience stuff – it’s the stuff that as a society we are addicted to and which many people believe will bring them happiness.   Trouble is these things really are addictive because the happiness they bring is short-lived, therefore we need to keep doing them to keep getting a fix.

They’re also addictive because they’re ego-serving – i.e. they boost our ego and make us feel good about ourselves in comparison to others. Trouble is, that then backfires on us because when it’s our friends telling us about something they’ve bought / done / eaten / etc., we feel inferior and inadequate – our ego takes a knock and we tell ourselves we’re not good enough. We become unhappy. And we believe the only way to find our way back to happiness is to buy / do / eat the same as them – or ideally even better stuff!

Genuine or Eudaimonic happiness is the opposite of this. This is the happiness that comes from inside us. It comes from knowing what’s important to you that you want to make central to your life – be that your career*, your family, voluntary work…. – something which is your Purpose. It comes from appreciating what you have rather than what you don’t have. It comes from being generous towards others with no expectation of anything in return (see post here about Adam Grant’s ‘Givers’). It comes from living in the present and enjoying the simple pleasures and moments in life. It comes from positive relationships with others (hmm, something developing EQ can bring….)  And all of which is the stuff that Mindfulness and Positive Psychology support.

So where does the ego sit in Genuine happiness? I guess it’s pretty quiet. Not gone completely, but definitely quieter. In this place you feel congruent in everything you do. You feel confident that you’re good enough just as you are. You help and enable others to succeed, which may well be to help you achieve your Purpose but you’re doing it because the Purpose is what matters (not because you achieving it and gaining kudos matters). You’re open to others’ ideas and views because your ego doesn’t need boosting by showing you know all the answers or that you’re ‘right’. And this openness you demonstrate attracts others to you and brings you even more success in making your Purpose a reality.

But then, when you achieve your success, does that give you a Hedonic happiness rush?

Well, I suppose it does. Just as the example of you seeing someone else happy from the appreciation you’ve shown them might give you a Hedonic happiness boost. And I think this is Hedonic in its more helpful form.  Because it’s never going to be beneficial to beat ourselves up for enjoying some Hedonic moments.

But, that ego. It’s still there, ready to pop up and take over gain.

You know that thing when famous people say “I’ve got my family and friends to thank for keeping me grounded” – that’s this stuff. It’s so easy for our ego to get carried away by people telling us good stuff about what we’ve done or how we are. When that happens our ego creeps in and we start doing things to get that Hedonic buzz of positive appreciation, instead of doing things for the purpose of our Purpose. We can start to think we’re so good that we become sloppy or lazy in our approach – and we stop doing or behaving in the way that got us the positive appreciation in the first place.

So, the pop star changes and starts to make music to get more accolades / girls / money – when they started out doing it for the love of the music, for the opportunity to express themselves so that others may enjoy and benefit from it.

Or the person identified as ‘future leadership potential’ starts to become arrogant and self-centred – when they started out with care for enabling and developing others, with a focus on team (not individual) results, with a Purpose beyond pay rise and promotion – all the things which got them spotted in the first place.

As with all these things, there’s no right or wrong; this or that. There’s a continuum and a balance.

I don’t think we could ever live in a completely ego-less, non-Hedonic, Genuine happiness state all the time, forever. We have a basic human need for Attention and to feel Valued so those, right there, are always going to be sought out and will feed our ego. I believe that’s why people talk about ‘practicing’ things like mindfulness because we aren’t perfect, we’re always improving, always on a journey, always trying to gain the balance of this and that. And I believe we’re better to start that journey than to sit at the station waiting for a fast train to take us there.

So where are you on your journey?

Where do you seek an unhelpful Hedonic buzz?

What’s important to you beyond that?

Where do you gain your Genuine happiness balance from?

And when you’re flying high, who is around you to celebrate with you, and keep you grounded?

[*When “career” features in your purpose there’s a difference between the purpose of – “I want to be a CEO of a FTSE100 because I’ll be rich and will be able to tell people I’m a CEO of a FTSE100” (hedonic happiness and ego-boost involved) vs “I want to be a CEO of a FTSE100 because I want to create a workplace where 1000’s of people enjoy working and which provides meaningful work and trade in the communities where we’re based.”]

This is me….. www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

WFS Tree

Fun’s not just for the fun of it!

So first session today at the CIPD L&D Show and I’ve chosen to come to the Science of Happiness: motivating and inspiring individuals, teams and orgs with Stephanie Davies, Director & Founder of Laughology.

Who loves a really good laugh? It’s good for us on many levels and Stephanie focuses on laughter and happiness.

She’s got the delegates participating already, raising the energy – just the tonic for first thing in the morning!

Currently reminding me slightly of a comedian – oh, turns out she used to be one!

She learnt that it helped you to flip situations on their head to turn a bad situation into something positive. Arguments with her boyfriend became some great material for her show!

Comedians don’t tell jokes, they tell stories that throw everyday things up in the air, help you see them in a different way and normalises them – makes you think ‘it’s ok’.

Humans are motivated by how we feel. That famous quote – people forget what you do and say but not how you made them feel (not quite quoted accurately there!)

We sometimes do things based on feelings and then regret it later.

Stephanie is asking what is laughter compared to humour? Even using flip chart – love it!!
Laughter – a reaction, contagious, energy, feel-good but sometimes just a communication tool to let others know how we feel – an innate ability from birth – even the polite/embarrassed laugh when you don’t understand what somebody’s said after 3 times of asking! It can even be a reaction to shock – our emotional response, coping mechanism
Humour – a trigger, interpretation of a situation, developed & taught as we grow older, a system for processing information

What comes first, success or happiness? – if happiness comes first it’s likely to be more sustainable. Success first tends to be more short-term happiness based on that one success.
What advice would you give on your death bed? More likely to ‘be happy’ but then why do we spend our time striving to be successful? Do we all think success will drive happiness?

Recent research by the government showed that people are happier where there’s less success, but those who are happy are more likely to get themselves out of that situation to be successful!

Neither happiness or success is sustainable all the time.

So, what is happiness? Big philosophical question but rapid-discussion in the room.
An attitude to life that helps you ‘handle stuff’, be resilient – a link back to yesterday’s session where the leaders who deal best with challenging situations will choose their attitude – choose to be hopeful. Maybe not as far as happiness in that moment but definitely choosing a positive response.

Self belief and self love, connecting to your inner joy – you’re likely to be more consistently happy if you’re in this place.

Key elements of happiness –

What do you see and hear at work? What’s it like when people talk to each other? How often do you see people talking and listening to each other? Do people feel heard? Do people feel valued?

A lot of this links to the theory of Human Givens.

And how we feel affects how we live our lives and whether we spend our lives in states of anxiety, boredom or flow, or mixing among these.

Fun exercise – 1,2,3 then woof, 2, 3 then woof, tap, 3, then woof, raspberry, bleat like a sheep! – alternating with your partner – much laughter!!

People recognised that this created energy, laugher, it was ok to get stuff wrong, people were connecting with the person next to them who they’d never met before.

Laughter and happy people = happy customers = positive bottom line results

mile – turn your people on before you turn your computer on
Motivating magic – create opportunities for flow
Impulse – some of the best stuff happens in those fleeting moments of brilliance
Laugher – more of this helps mindset
Empower – give people more ownership

If we want to get different results we need to recognise our emotional reactions and think about how we can FLIP those –
Focus – on the situation
Language – simple language. Corporate speak isn’t impressive, it just disengages
Imagination – what’s possible, where are people’s thoughts going to for worse scenarios – what are they imagining could happen because they haven’t been spoken to in simple, straight language? There are many parts of our life where we do what we’ve always done because that’s how we were taught. Processes and systems that teach a certain way to behave sometimes need to be broken away from – imagining different ways
attern Breaking – even just doing one different thing tomorrow will start to make a change

Sometimes we need to learn from children – a lot of this is seen in them. The difference as an adult is having the emotional intelligence to manage your reactions – tantrums probably won’t get you being so successful!

Final thought from Stephanie – some people create happiness when they walk into a room, some people create it when they leave. Choose which you want to be.

A refreshing session for its delivery – energising, engaging, involving. Feels like people have learnt some new ways of thinking about the impact of happiness at work.

Continues the theme of engaging with people at a human level – leaders need to be human, employees need to feel they can be human. If we do this, we can be happy and enjoy what we do, and deliver success!

Bumper to Bumper

Driving home tonight, amongst the throng of rush hour traffic, I watched the many people who stay bumper to bumper. Not leaving an inch lest some ‘cheeky’ driver from a side junction jump in ‘their’ space. How very dare they!! Even if actually all that driver wants to do is cut through to their route on the other side of the queue.

It made me feel sad.

So many opportunities for small acts of kindness. Is it really so hard for people to let one person in ahead of them, or to help that person get a way through to continue in their new direction, to give them that opportunity to progress on their journey, and to just make it that little bit easier for them to do so. And to feel happy – both the giver and receiver of that act of kindness. That helping hand. That boost to make things a little bit better for more people.

At work…….seen it? Leaders defending their domain, protecting their power position. Not helping others to develop and progress on their career journey – what if they turn out to be better than me? What then??

So when it comes to performance expectations, what weight does your organisation give to leaders who develop their teams?

What are leaders recognised for? Promoting their own agenda, or giving others the support to promote their’s?

Who are the ones that ‘get on’?

And what would be better for the organisation – ego-driven self-obsessed leadership?
Or a whole organisation of people who feel supported, developed and given the chance to step into the the ‘space’ by the person who ‘owns’ it just now.

How do you want it to be?