Do what you want to do and you will be happier

“It’s about the people, not the plan” said Peter Cowley, Business angel investor of the world 2017 at our recent conference. And Kurt Lyall, from RocketRoute, who has raised millions, said, you should work with people you like. Sounds fun, so why do we need money? Why are people so stressed? Another colleague at the same conference agreed with me, that in reality many top business people are pretty tough and some are pretty, well…nasty. So, on the specific issue of happiness, should you pursue it? One reason people leave employed work is to regain control of what they do. The idea being that if you do what you want to do you will be happier.  A piece of research on the BBC, on Trust Me I’m a Doctor, recently conclusively, proved this. So, if you do what you want to do you will be happier. Across all aspects of our lives, happiness means taking control of your work, home and lifestyle.

Types and Causes of Happiness

Two happiness experts, Richard Layard of the London School of Economics and John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia produced the first World Happiness Report. The report found that the world’s happiest countries were in northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands) and the most miserable are in Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, and Sierra Leone). They say happiness can be measured. That happiness has causes such as wealth, income distribution, health and political institutions. This is well worth a read and echoes what Maslow wrote in his Hierarchy of Needs. People need to deal with basic and psychological needs before considering self-fulfilment needs, or indeed their “happiness”.

This said, and despite recent austerity challenges, living standards have raised, to a level in the West where many (not all), would expect from work and lifestyles much more than previous generations. Hence happiness has appeared more readily on the agenda. As has stress. The question for home life and work is what type of happiness is there? Here are three suggestions.

  1. “Feeling good” hedonistic happiness. It’s pretty obvious this is the fun we all indulge in but not part of a life-plan, or something you’d base your business on.
  2. Eudaimonic Happiness meaning “flourishing” dating back to Socrates and the Stoics. A virtuous life gave you this. Virtues enjoyed in this state include justice, self-control and wisdom.
  3. Evaluative Happiness, psychologists ask you to rate happiness 1-10 tied to “life satisfaction” and goal fulfilment. It’s simple, easily measured and therefore popular.

Until now…

A ground breaking piece of research you may have seen on the BBC into mental health and stress was conducted as part of the TV series Trust Me I’m a Doctor. It concluded, if you carry out activity you enjoy, you will be happy. Obvious? Well, let me give you more detail. The team gathered a group of people. They measured the changes in critical body chemistry elements associated with stress and happiness. They divided them into sub-groups and over a number of weeks each sub-group did yoga, gardening, wellbeing and various other activities associated with relieving stress. There was also a control group i.e. one with no change in lifestyle. People participating in activities showed improvement. Those doing what they enjoyed improved better i.e. were happier still.

Conversely Avoid Unhappiness

It is incredible how many people appear to hate their jobs. Or it is claimed they hate their jobs… The headline in a recent survey, reported in this smallbusiness.co.uk-article , screamed out, “16:22 pm Sunday is officially the “end” of the weekend”. With five sectors topping the list as dreading Mondays most, being:

  • Accountancy and banking (83 per cent)
  • Recruitment/HR (78 per cent)
  • Law (78 per cent)
  • Healthcare (76 per cent)
  • Property and construction (75 per cent)

For Leaders Happiness is through Achievement

Taking control of your personal and business situation is the challenge for leaders. How to do this? Most leaders, MDs, business owners and directors take it for granted that work and leisure mix these days. In fact, for some the two are the same. I mentioned the recent Dorset Business Angels Conference earlier; all the speakers stressed the need to adapt with change. They relish challenge, they deal with failure, they smile and laugh despite pretty awful problems at times. They have fun, personally and with their companies. They prove you can have private and company wellbeing. Happiness means take control of your personal and business wellbeing. It’s both about empathy and being hard-nosed as appropriate and requires leadership.

Personal and Organisational Effectiveness

Truly effective leaders know from experience (and failure) that the business cannot be fully effective unless they are also fully effective. A business can’t fire on all four cylinders if the person in charge is misfiring. I’ve done some work with Steve Barker on this where we show the synergy between personal and business life. You might find the ideas useful, take a look when you have a moment here. The point remains that aiming for happiness for the sake of itself is a tad shallow and illusory. Most people who have achieved anything however modest usually get enjoyment from a challenge! As the BBC research showed and experience shows if you do what you want to do you will be happier. Across all aspects of our lives, happiness means taking control of your work, home and lifestyle.

Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited

Posted in Blog.