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The Most Important Contributor to Happiness

In our search for happiness and its close cousins, well-being and life satisfaction, we’ve seen that it’s complex. In a previous post, we noted 20 research-based practices that lead to happiness. Which are the most important? Which have the most influence on our enduring happiness? Relationships.   Happiness and Relationships “No man is an island.” -John Donne Connecting with others gives us a sense of worth, meaning, and belonging. When we’re in close relationship with others, we’re more likely to receive support when we need it most (and to provide it when others need it). According to many researchers, strong social

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What Leads to Happiness?

We all want to be happy—and for those we care about to be happy. Here’s the problem: we’re unclear and often badly mistaken about what will bring us happiness. We’re inundated with messages from family, friends, ads, and social media about what will make us happy. Most of these messages are wrong. The result: What we think will make us happy is different from what actually makes us happy.   What Is Happiness? To understand what’s going on here, we should back up and clarify what we’re talking about. What is happiness? Turns out it’s not so simple to define.

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Why Happiness Is the Wrong Goal

Let’s face it. We’re obsessed with happiness: Am I happy? I just want to be happy. I want my kids to be happy. Why doesn’t my job make me happy? Why doesn’t my relationship make me happy? We tend to view happiness as the point of life. Sounds reasonable. But it turns out to be counterproductive. Happiness is the wrong goal. To understand why and how, let’s back up and examine what we’re talking about. There are many ways to think about happiness. We often think of it as feeling contentment or pleasure. But there’s more to it. An excellent

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The Great Re-Evaluation

The pandemic has called the question about our work—about how it fits into what we want in our lives. It’s made millions of us stop, look around, and wonder. Enter “the Great Resignation.” In September, 4.4 million Americans (about 2.9% of the national workforce) left their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In August, it was 4.3 million. About 4 million in July. (In September 2020, the number was about 3.3 million.) According to research from Visier, the annualized resignation rate of about 25 percent. According to a Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 workers around the world,

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Breaking the “Trance of Unworthiness”

Many of us are walking around in a “trance of unworthiness.” It’s a gnawing feeling that we’re deeply flawed. It tells us we’re not worthy of love, happiness, success, or approval. And it follows us around like a shadow. When I first encountered this provocative term from psychologist and author Tara Brach, it felt like a revelation to me, because I’ve seen it in so many of my colleagues, clients, and students—and because I’ve felt it at times too. Brach describes it as “fear or shame—a feeling of being flawed, unacceptable, not enough. Who I am is not okay.” “Who

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Getting Good at Overcoming Fear

Fear. A terrible feeling. Something to avoid. Right? Not so fast. Fear can actually be turned into a powerful asset and opportunity, if understood and addressed properly. First, what is it? Fear is a feeling of distress or dread caused by a sense of impending danger or pain. It’s a powerful, primitive emotion. A warning that we need to pay attention. We need fear to survive, and it has served us well through the ages. But it can also be one of the biggest obstacles in our lives. We can go through our whole lives trying to avoid the things

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Burnout and the Great Resignation

Burnout has been a big problem for millions of people for a long time now. And it’s getting worse. Burnout is also affecting more young people. And the pandemic, with all the extra stressors and pressures it’s brought to so many, is aggravating the burnout problem. These are major ingredients of the “great resignation.” What is burnout? According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is “a special type of work-related stress—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” When we’re burned out, we feel run-down and exhausted or

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Beware the Disease of More

More isn’t always better. Let that sink in. More ≠ better. Yet our brains fool us into thinking that it is. It’s an unconscious assumption, deep in our brains, that’s nearly impossible to shake. It’s the idea that if we get more of the things we think we want, we’ll be happier. But it’s a lie. More what? More of pretty much everything: Money. Status. Skills. Achievements. Victories. Conquests. Beauty. Followers. Honors. Devices. Shoes. Goals. Projects. More whatever. You name it. We’re seduced by the possibility of the next thing. Seduced by the chase. Here’s the thing: We accumulate them

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two hands in golden handcuffs

Golden Handcuffs: Stuck in a Job You Don’t Like?

Stuck in a job you don’t like? Enduring it? Too often, we do it for the money, the security, or the prestige, but not for its intrinsic value. We stick it out, trapped by golden handcuffs. Golden handcuffs are financial incentives designed to keep workers at an organization. We may long to leave a job and set out on a new adventure, but the thought of giving up the salary, bonus, or other perks makes us stay. It helps to view it from our own perspective. Sometimes the golden handcuffs are self-imposed. They can come in the form of lifestyle

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success trap--man on a hamster wheel

Are You Trapped by Success?

Are you trapped by success? It’s an odd question. How can success be a trap? Is that even possible? Turns out it can be a big trap. Below are 15 quick ways. 1. Addicted to Success In a culture that worships success, we can become obsessed by it. It can consume most of our waking hours, and most of our waking thoughts. It can become a compulsive drive. We can build our lives around the pursuit of success. But what is success, actually? Have we taken the time to define what it means for us, in our current chapter of

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The Conformity Trap

One of the biggest traps we face as we make decisions about life and work is the trap of conforming to societal expectations or conventional paths instead of blazing our own path in life. Conformity entails behaving in ways similar to others or according to their wishes instead of relying on our own judgment or preferences. We see this all time. We tend to mirror the body language and communication styles of our peer groups. Our penchant for conformity comes from a strong desire to fit in with the group. It can be conscious or unconscious, and it doesn’t require

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Is Your Identity Wrapped Up Too Much in Your Work?

Work is a big part of our lives. It’s essential to our income and security, and it can be a source of meaning and satisfaction. But there are dangers with having our identity too wrapped up in our work. What happens if we’re laid off? Or in-between jobs? No longer able to do that kind of work? Retired? We’re vulnerable to an identity crisis and a downward spiral when the work that animates our identity disappears or changes. “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” –Colin Powell For

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What We Can Learn from the Olympics about Life and Leadership

With the Olympics underway­­­—with all the competition, drama, and intrigue—what can we learn from them not only about excellence and teamwork but also about life and leadership? Sure we admire the grueling physical feats and the mental preparation. The years of punishing practices, discipline, focus, and skill-building that go into the nine-second sprint, the epic overtime soccer match, or the attempt to shatter records. Part of what’s great about the Olympics is the quest for excellence—and the occasional flash of it that electrifies the world. “Excellent” is one of the three components of our “triple crown leadership” model (the others

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The Mental Prisons We Build for Ourselves

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Though we like to think of ourselves as free, many of us are confined to a mental prison we’ve built for ourselves. Our most vicious jailer is our unhealthy “self-talk”—our inner critic that savagely sabotages us with haunting doubts and harsh judgments. We’re our own worst enemy. We’re a prisoner of our “monkey mind”—feeling unsettled or restless and easily distracted by thoughts that bounce around like agitated apes. Often, we’re dwelling on the past or worrying about the future—always neglecting the present moment. Most of our mental prisons are

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Do You Have Margin in Your Life?

Many of us are always “on” these days, running from task to task. Never-ending demands. Frenetic pace. We fill every available moment with activity or scrolling through our digital feeds. Young hustlers making it happen. Working parents managing the household. Climbing the corporate ladder or growing our small business or nonprofit.  Perpetual busyness. It feels heavy always going at this pace. We get exhausted. The problem: We don’t have enough margin in our lives. It’s not common to talk and think in terms of margin in our lives. But it’s needed now more than ever. A margin is the border

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