The Happiness Crisis

A new Harris Poll Happiness Index indicates that Americans are not as happy today as we were just two years ago.

Minorities, the disabled and college grads were less happy than they were previously.  Only a third of the poll said they were “very happy”.

It could be the job market.  Or the sequester or for that matter political issues like immigration.  Women were happier than men (35% vs. 32%).  Independents (32%) were not has happy as Democrats and Republicans (35%).

What is happiness?

One of the best definitions I have ever seen is from Martin Seligman, a well-known researcher in positive thinking and author of Authentic Happiness.  He says it comes in three parts:

  1. Pleasure (the “feel good” stuff)
  2. Engagement (“good life” or work, family, friends and hobbies)
  3. Meaning (using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose)

Of the three, engagement and meaning are the most important to living a happy life.

Sometimes it takes a roadmap to find where we want to go.

“Happiness is not something ready made.  It comes from your own actions” – The Dalai Lama

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First, Show You Care

Quicken Loans, one of the most lauded new age companies for customer service teaches their employees that “clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

That is awesome advice not just for business but also for personal relationships.

Too often we care but we don’t show it.

We care, but we don’t say it.

Imagine how our lives would be different from today on if we adopted the mantra, “first, show you care” before we try to persuade, dissuade, sell, ask or anything else for that matter.

Dale Carnegie always said his human relations principles are worth nothing if they are not applied sincerely and the same goes for this.

So, try it today.

Do no asking or telling until you show you care.

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” — Theodore Roosevelt

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The Best Way To Win An Argument

Arguments often degenerate into a poorly run debate in which each side sees their goal as trumping the other person’s previous claim.

My mother used to say, “You can never talk a person out of their politics” and was she ever right.

In fact, we may not be able to convince anybody that our position is the right one on many other things.

So, change strategies.

The best way to get someone to listen to our point of view is to acknowledge right up front that we heard something they said that opposes what we believe.

Most people argue to be heard so if we can somehow communicate, “message received” they are more likely to hear us.

Arguments can turn into shouting matches, insults and hard feelings so the goal is to make sure the other person is heard before we speak.

And to be realistic.

You don’t have to “win” an argument; you just have to make your case because if you become the “winner” somebody has to lose.

The best way to win an argument is to avoid it.

The best way to communicate your feelings, thoughts or ideas is to acknowledge the other person’s comments first.

“No one can persuade another to change.  Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.  We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal” – Marilyn Ferguson

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How to be Persuasive

Researchers from Washington State University analyzed a billion tweets during American sporting events including the 2013 Super Bowl and discovered that being confident makes you more popular than being right.

What’s worse is that the louder or more confident the tweets sounded, the more trustworthy and popular they were.

I know this is Twitter, but Twitter imitates life these days.

In life, the loud, confident person looks like they know what they are talking about even if they are all wet.

So the question is:  should we act more confident and speak in louder tones to make people believe us and like us?

First, a thought.

What if we were louder, sounded more confident AND knew what we were talking about?

And that’s the secret to being a persuasive person.

All style and no substance is a dead end.

Before trying to persuade another, make sure you have a legitimate argument that can be substantiated.

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful” – Edward R. Murrow

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Surmounting Great Personal Loss

A family member or dear friend cannot be replaced, but in healing we learn how to accept their death and find a new place for them in our lives as we move on.

But death isn’t the only great personal loss.

The loss of a job or career can be catastrophic.  Those who successfully move beyond career crises rebuild their lives not just searching for a new job.

The loss of youth must be dealt with by everyone and not just the elderly.  A 40-year-old is not a 21-year-old and those who navigate through aging in a healthy way do it by looking forward to the future not being stuck in the past.

The loss of a marriage or a meaningful relationship calls upon us to first heal and then learn from what may have gone wrong so that we can become better mates and partners.

The secret to overcoming great personal loss is not the obvious replacement of what was lost with something else.

Some things just can’t be replaced.

We surmount great personal loss when we add some great personal gain. 

Nothing is sadder than a person who fails to create situations in which they gain new experiences, opportunities and friends.

Loss must be offset by gains.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live” – Norman Cousins

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