- What do you associate with playing?
- What are your playgrounds?
- Why don’t we play (any) more?
- What does it take to un-learn playing; what, to re-learn it?
Archive for Happiness
Last week I finally went to my first Milonga (Tango Argentino). Was I nervous? Yes, I was. I only started to learn Tango only a few months ago, consider myself an absolute beginner (I am), didn’t want to make a fool of myself , didn’t want to hurt anyone on the dance floor (it is crowded), could only do a few moves (compared to what the semi-pros on the dance floor showed), …, and the list goes on and on. Today I know that it was and is a list of excuses, lame excuses that is.
[Photo © Joachim Kant | pixelio.de]
Well, especially in the beginning I felt more like an elephant on ice. My brain was mush, no, empty. It seemed that I had forgotten everything I learned in my dance classes. I felt like a rock in a storm, not able to move one inch. At the same time my head was full of, well, I don’t know what it was – void, heat, concerns, fear?
Luckily, I was not alone. The first dance with my wife was actually passable. Both of us were nervous. And yet we survived. “Time to sit down and rest, recuperate, refresh”, I thought. But the minute I sat down a friend of mine asked me to dance with her. Ooops. Here it was again, fear crawling up my stomach, my brain turning into mush.
On the other side, my dance partner was very understanding and encouraging. I think we did ok; at least, nobody was hurt. 🙂 The first ice was broken.
Time went on, was flying. Soon three hours passed. I still felt “foreign”, but not like an elephant on ice anymore, maybe more like a dog on ice.
And then there were 3-4 dances when time stood still; when all of sudden I let go of all pressure, concerns, thoughts, and all I did was listening to the music and dance with my partner. Our steps and moves flew naturally. It was smooth sailing. And with it came joy, relaxation, big inner smiles and grins. Both of us were stunned and perplexed. Amazing.
Ok, 3-4 dances out of 20 or more is not that much. But it was more than enough to motivate us to plan our next Milonga. And we are really looking forward to it. Will it be better? Possibly and probably, for this first Milonga revealed something magical.
I realized that I still have to learn a lot. Technically? Yes. But more so about letting go, relaxing, listening to the music, going with the flow, looking for and moving into free spaces, being in the moment. Letting go and being and going with the moment seems to be, no, is the key to experiencing joy and flow on the dance floor.
This was and is the outstanding insight of my first Milonga – about Tango as well as life.
People say that Tango is a reflection of life. This is so true. And it is not the Milongas, it is also the Tango lessons, the learning experiences bringing excitement, motivation, joy, frustration, depression, worries, concerns, fears. Tango can teach you a lot about your attitude and practice in life, about your partnerships, your love, your outlook, your flow (or the lack therof), your being. It drastically reveals your state of life.
If Tango doesn’t flow quite yet, check your present life style, your family life, your friendships, partnerships and professional environment. Are you limiting your thinking, are you trying to structure, plan and control it? This may work at times and yield satisfactory results. But, if you truly want to dance in your flow, you have to let go of limiting thoughts, concerns, fears. Jumping into the cold water, showing and expressing who you are in this moment. Could very well be that it is not “perfect” in the eye of some beholders and the greatest critic (which is probably you yourself).
We are human with imperfections which make us perfect; we are not machines. Ripping yourself off false expectations and just go and play like a kid is refreshing and rewarding like nothing else. Because it helps you be human and find and be yourself again.
Over the last two decades I have worked for a number of companies, consulted even more. Some of them were outstanding, others were, well, less so. It is time to reflect and share what I believe are
Over the last 18 months I have developed a comprehensive toolkit to evaluate and unfold the organizational potential and performance. It is simple, practical and applicable for short-, mid- and long-term organizational needs. It helps deliver measurable business results for client delight, a happy workplace, and business value. It does not create administrative effort without any sustainable value. As a matter of fact it fosters self-organizing, scalable best-practice sharing.
I call this toolkit and approach “Excite!” because unfolding organizational potential can and is exciting indeed. But, and this is a big “but”, it requires an open mind and common intent to unfold organizational potential and performance. Not every company has this mindset. But then, not every company is the ideal company, the best place to work and be. It is a matter of choice.
Have I always worked for an ideal company? Well, no, not always; but, yes, I have worked for companies and teams that followed the principles outlined above (one of them was (during my times there) Cambridge Technology Partners and Vail Resorts). And if a company I work for is not ideal I always have a choice: I leave the company or help unfold its potential and performance. The latter is what motivates me.
Yes, I do have a number of new year’s resolution.
This is why I am looking forward to
In other words, there are a lot of people, activities and things to look forward to in 2016.
Every morning our team got together for our morning stand-up session. It had become a daily routine. The structure of these 15-minutes standups was simple: we reflected on our accomplishments of the previous day, our planned deliverables of the new day and any impediments we were facing and for which we were asking for help from within the team or outside.
This routine is common to many other teams. What made our daily standups special was that we added a fourth element. Once every team member talked about his or her accomplishments, planned deliverables and inquiries for help, he or she shared what would make him or her happy that very day. This could be anything the team member deemed valuable. For example, a desired outcome of a meeting, a report, a breakthrough idea, or an evening activity may it be sports, dinner, cinema or anything else.
In the beginning adding this fourth element in our daily standups felt odd and, to some of us, even funny and silly. Then, slowly things changed. Sharing your personal desired happiness moment of the day by itself was special. What made it unique was that every team member was listening to the others. Knowing about what my teammates would make them happy, gave me a better understanding what moved them. Then there were the happiness moments where my daily goal was to make my teammates happy, i.e., help them achieve their happiness moment. This could be that I took over some of their work so that they could leave on time for their date in the evening. Or, helping them prepare a session. In either way, making my teammates happy, increased my own happiness even more. And this showed in my own work, performance, mood and, last but not least, results.
Next time when you conduct your daily standup with your team, suggest to add a fourth question. That is answer the following questions:
Is it that simple? Yes, it is. Try it for a couple of 1-2 weeks and find out by yourself. Of course, as always it is your choice to be happy or unhappy.
As the new year is just around the corner it’s this time of the year many of us come up with glorious (or not so glorious) New Year’s Resolutions. Unfortunately, most of these don’t last long. Makes you wonder how sincere they were in the first place. Excuses vary from “it was not the right resolution”, to “I was just too busy” and “my job doesn’t allow me the space for my resolution”. And there are many other excuses. And they are just that: “excuses”.
But what a resolution which may very worth the investment?! Let me suggest one which I strongly believe in.
We all have to work. However, how many of us are really happy with and in their job? Does your job merely satisfy your needs? Do you like it? If so, what is it that you like? Is the people, the environment, the salary, other perks?
Job satisfaction is definitely something worth striving for. And I believe that every employer should care about its employees being satisfied with and in their jobs. For, if not, performance is likely to suffer resulting in poorer productivity, lower quality, dissatisfied customers, less sales and hence profits. It is a spiral downward.
However, job satisfaction is not enough! Satisfaction is great, at first sight. But then it is just that “satisfaction”, it is enough, mediocre, average, far from better or even best. Why should “average” be sufficient?! It is not. What to do instead?
As an employer, find out what makes your employees happy. Not solely in the sense of pleasure. Happiness is much more than that. It involves passion for doing something or being with other people or in a specific environment. It involves purpose, i.e., something people can relate to and identify with. People know why they are doing something and they believe in it. They share a common purpose. They are driven by it. Hopefully, this purpose coincides with the purpose and mission of your company or organization. If not, well, you may have a problem or two along the horizon (meaning de-motivated employees).
These days it is no longer sufficient to hire people and expect them fully believe and support the purpose or mission of your company. If you want to attract and retain talents you have to find out what drives, what motivates them. What makes them happy.
As an employee, what do you love about your job? What makes you happy? If you don’t have a happy workplace, of course, you could go to your boss and ask for help. But, hey, it is your life. Rather than looking for outside help, start with yourself. What drives you day in day out? What are you passionate about? What gives you pleasure? And how can you bring this into your job, where you can find it?
P.S.: Here’s a link to a related article.
Holiday Season – It’s the time of the year when we spend extra time with our beloved ones, family and friends, celebrate, exchange gifts, having a wonderful time. And be happy.
What is it that makes us happy? Is it the special time of Christmas? Or is the moments where we make other people happy that give us this special kick? Or is the many little things that make us happy, that make these days truly special?
Personally, I think it is the combination of these things. And more? Whatever it is, enjoy it, live it, feel it, be actively aware of these special moments, be and live in the present to the fullest.
And then, go a step further and ask yourself how you can carry this spirit to tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. I am not talking about developing a big new year’s resolution – which most people tend to forget after a few days anyway. I am talking about a simple, yet possibly disturbing, life-changing and at the same time exciting thing: being yourself.
When you start being yourself, amazing things will happen. Not for last, you will be happier. Explore yourself, be.
Then share your experiences. Create the space for others to find and accept themselves. This way you, too, can contribute to making others happier. And this in return will make you even happier.
Simple? Yes. But who says that happiness has to be difficult to find. It’s already here.
Ever wondered what could turn around your struggling project, or shape a project that it tells a story and convinces others just be hearing about the project? Well, there could be a simple remedy. And that is to link happiness to your project. – Ok, let’s start slow.
This week I conducted a seminar on project leadership. In one of the central exercises smaller groups worked on fictitious projects. Seminar attendants could pick whatever topic, issue or question they cared about. One group chose to ponder how to improve time management for students obtaining a graduate degree while having to work full-time and nourishing a family. Another group analyzed ways and means to improve a business partnership with suppliers. And yet another decided to talk about the need of drones for the German military. At the end of each exercise session teams presented their results. They shared their views what motivated them to work on their particular project, what they envisioned and what specific goals they were pursuing. Not too surprisingly the project with the military drone got rather passive looks and no real feedback when they presented their project. This changed when I asked the teams to address a simple question with respect to their project. “How does your project contribute to happiness?” That’s it; just this simple question.
I was curious what the teams would come up with. Especially the drone project. After all, linking a military weapon, defensive as it may be intentioned, with happiness?! That would be a tough sell. Well, things did not quite work out as assumed. When it was their turn everybody expected them to talk about the various functionalities of a military drone, its specifications and how to use it in combat. But instead the group talked about peace enforcement, conflict prevention and support for human rights. And they talked about it in an appealing way that reached people and caused their emotional reaction. All of a sudden, nobody was thinking of the weapon any more but how to help achieve world peace. What happened? Addressing the question “How does your project contribute to happiness?” project members checked for their inner motivation – not warefare but peace and stability – and they shared it openly and honestly. This touched people, they could relate to the team’s motivation, even identify with it. Instead of being doubtful and deprecating, not only did they appreciated the project presentation but even asked how they could help the team.
A project which moments earlier was dull, cold and tiring became lively, meaningful and attractive. A simple question “How does your project contribute to happiness?” triggered the change of the nature of the project, its momentum and the attitude of team members and observers. So, next time you face a troubling project, ask the team this question, “how does your project contribute to happiness?, and see what happens.
It was an honor and great pleasure to open the conference with my own keynote on “Leadership, Happiness and Project Success“. In my presentation I explained why and how leadership and happiness are the key ingredients to project success.
A lot has been said and written about leadership and how it affects project success. But ‘happiness’?! Well, not so much. This is sad I think for ‘happiness’ brings in the human factor into the equation. It’s ok to satisfy the customer. But is it sufficient? I don’t think so. If you and your team aim for a happy team and a happy customer it can take your project to a higher level.
Scientific research has shown that our brains work better when they are ‘happy’. And when our brains are at ‘happy’ that positivity will ripple out to others and can raise productivity. Hence, whenever you aim to promote happiness in your project you can likely improve performance and productivity. Not bad, isn’t it?!
Well, not so fast. I am not sure if you can or actually want to come up with a formal definition of ‘happiness’. It is personal, subjective in nature. And yet, (most) people will agree that ‘happiness’ is great and worthwhile striving for. The 3 P’s – pleasure, purpose, passion – give us a hint what ‘happiness’ entails. In the context of a project I think that the purpose and passion characteristics of happiness a central. In other words, you and your team have to have a common understanding of the motivation and vision of the project. They need to know, support and share it. Not by force but because they want to – on the project, individual and team levels.
Have a look at my presentation to learn more about it.
At the conclusion of my keynote I invited the audience to take action to create a happier life. For this purpose I handed out GREAT DREAM postcards. It lists 10 key to happier living based on a review of the latest scientific research relating to happiness.
Everyone’s path to happiness is different, but the research suggests these Ten Keys consistently tend to have a positive impact on people’s overall happiness and well-being. The first five (GREAT) relate to how we interact with the outside world in our daily activities. The second five (DREAM) come more from inside us and depend on our attitude to life.
I want to thank the Action for Happiness movement for providing these postcards at no charge.
Giving a keynote on ‘happiness’ is a great experience. It gave me the chance not only to talk about happiness to a large audience but actually make people happy. What a wonderful and fulfilling opportunity!
Learning more about happiness and how it can help us grow successful projects is one thing. Applying the principles in our daily lives is another and more powerful thing. Hence, I am asking you, the reader, to visit the Action for Happiness website, take the Action for Happiness pledge and start living a happier life.
I believe that one of the key factors for happiness at work, and this includes projects, is PASSION. Passion comes from feeling like you are a part of something that you believe in, something bigger than yourself.
This meaning by itself is still fluffy if you expect a formal definition of the term. Alas, I am not sure whether or not it is a) possible or b) desirable to offer a formal definition. Passion is, just as ‘happiness’, very personal and subjective in its meaning and its implications. Hence, I like to stay it with the attempt of the offered description of passion, i.e., passion comes from feeling like you are a part of something that you believe in, something bigger than yourself.
And yet as ‘passion’ is subjective as it may be it is not limited in its scope. Passion can be contagious. Look at a group of people who are passionate about their activities, may it be music, sports or work. When you observe them not only can you see the smiles in their face, you can literately feel and sense their passion, their excitement and energy. These people share something in common, something that moves them, something that excites them. And they love every minute of it. What would you do as an observer or bystander?
I can speak for myself: most likely, watching a passionate group of people would make me smile for I like it when I see people who are happy. And I may even admire them for having found their passion and expressing it. It is cool and it is worthwhile striving for. It may remind me of my own passion. Or it may remind me that I yet have to identify my passion in a specific area and express it. Fact is that expressing your own passion releases energy and it comes back to you multifold in a very positive way. It is a ‘flow’ state where time seizes to exist and you enter a state of ‘being’.
Achieving a flow state is a wonderful experience. It is fun, exhilarating, exciting, stress-relieving, enjoyful, dramatic and pure. It is multi-dimensional in the sense that it can come from your work or project, from your own personal self or from and with your team, or – even better for a project or work setting – from all of these levels, i.e, individual, group and project levels. This is what happens in WOW projects. WOW projects are projects that add value, projects that matter, projects that make a difference, projects that leave a legacy. And those are projects that bring happiness into our daily work life. Both on the individual and team level.
Passion is a key ingredient to this WOW experience. So, go out, find your passion and do it with passion.
Learn more about how to find your passion and use it in your projects at work. For example, have a look at my seminar “Finding the Spirit of WOW Projects“.
I will be giving a keynote address on ‘Leadership, Happiness and Project Success’ at this year’s PMI Netherlands Summit on Thursday 12 June 2014.