It was with spring in my step and a sparkle in my eye that I leapt out of bed this morning, delighted at the prospect of my return to work.
My alarm went off at 7am, I grumpily got up and realised that I hadn't quite shaken off the full-body hangover lingering from New Years Eve and then dragged my sorry arse to the office.
Delete as appropriate.
I received an email from LinkedIn today. Now, I'm a slightly reluctant user of a site that clearly wishes it was some kind of Facebook for very important business types. I have a profile, but I almost never update it and basically use it to accept "contact" requests from people I have actually worked with (and not the masses of recruitment consultants who congregate there and clearly see the site as something that helps them shortcut all tedious, time-consuming parts of their job.... like actually finding appropriate candidates for jobs rather than just keyword searching and spamming strangers).
Anyway. LinkedIn send me emails: one a week to let me know what's been going on in my "network" (i.e. news of who is the most desperate for a new job) and one with links to articles that I'm almost certainly not going to be interested in. As I've been out of the office for a couple of weeks, I had a whole pile of unread email to get through and simply deleted most of it. There was one article in one of my LinkedIn emails that caught my eye though:
"9 DAILY HABITS THAT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER" by Geoffrey James on INC.com.
Hmm. Well, as I'm killing time today, why don't we check out these insights? Here's the article in full:
Happiness is the only true measure of personal success. Making other people happy is the highest expression of success, but it's almost impossible to make others happy if you're not happy yourself.
With that in mind, here are nine small changes that you can make to your daily routine that, if you're like most people, will immediately increase the amount of happiness in your life:
1. Start each day with expectation.
If there's any big truth about life, it's that it usually lives up to (or down to) your expectations. Therefore, when you rise from bed, make your first thought: "something wonderful is going to happen today." Guess what? You're probably right.
2. Take time to plan and prioritize.
The most common source of stress is the perception that you've got too much work to do. Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.
3. Give a gift to everyone you meet.
I'm not talking about a formal, wrapped-up present. Your gift can be your smile, a word of thanks or encouragement, a gesture of politeness, even a friendly nod. And never pass beggars without leaving them something. Peace of mind is worth the spare change.
4. Deflect partisan conversations.
Arguments about politics and religion never have a "right" answer but they definitely get people all riled up over things they can't control. When such topics surface, bow out by saying something like: "Thinking about that stuff makes my head hurt."
5. Assume people have good intentions.
Since you can't read minds, you don't really know the "why" behind the "what" that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people's weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.
6. Eat high quality food slowly.
Sometimes we can't avoid scarfing something quick to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese or an imported chocolate. Focus on it; taste it; savor it.
7. Let go of your results.
The big enemy of happiness is worry, which comes from focusing on events that are outside your control. Once you've taken action, there's usually nothing more you can do. Focus on the job at hand rather than some weird fantasy of what might happen.
8. Turn off "background" TV.
Many households leave their TVs on as "background noise" while they're doing other things. The entire point of broadcast TV is to make you dissatisfied with your life so that you'll buy more stuff. Why subliminally program yourself to be a mindless consumer?
9. End each day with gratitude.
Just before you go to bed, write down at least one wonderful thing that happened. It might be something as small as a making a child laugh or something as huge as a million dollar deal. Whatever it is, be grateful for that day because it will never come again.
2013 is a New Year. It's perhaps a good time to take stock and to reflect on my life and my career. Will it be the year when I turn away from a "partisan conversation" with the phrase "Thinking about that stuff makes my head hurt"?
Erm....no. That is more or less the same as saying "I don't know about that, but I do love little kittens," isn't it?
Remember: over-education leads to ugliness, premature ageing and beard growth.
Look, don't get me wrong: there's some good stuff in there too. For the last couple of months I've been trying to use number 5 in particular - or something a bit like it - as a mantra to encourage me to be more patient with people in the office..... and if this kind of thing floats your boat, then good luck to you.
It's just that....well.... if that works for you, then I can't help but think that you must be a simpler soul than me. I read that stuff and I find it almost impossible not to see it as trite and obvious. This is one of the most popular articles on that website (alongside things like "6 Things Really Productive People Do" and "8 Beliefs That Will Make You More Resilient" and "5 Things That Really Smart People Do" - my guess, FWIW, would be that one of the things really smart people don't do is read articles consisting entirely of made-up lists, but I haven't read the article, so what would I know?)
Perhaps it's just me. I'm sure it does everyone a lot of good to reflect on some of the nicer moments in life and to take a break from the relentless treadmill; to look up once in a while and to smell the roses... but eat high quality food slowly? write down a nice thing every night before you go to bed? What kind of advice is that? Are you an eight year old girl or an ambitious, high-flying business executive?
Or maybe this is what ambitious, high-flying business executives actually DO read? What if the secret to business success IS contained in these articles?
Hmm. I will reflect on this and perhaps 2013 will be the year that I really start to climb the greasy corporate pole.
Tomorrow: 182 More Entirely Obvious Reasons Why My Brilliant Career Will Never Take Off
Delete as appropriate.
Happy New Year, y'all.
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