Happy People Are Aware of These 5 Concepts

Katy Montgomery

Katy currently serves as the Global Director of the Career Development Centre at INSEAD where she manages career services professionals across three campuses: Abu Dhabi, Fontainebleau, and Singapore. Katy previously served as the Associate Dean for Student Development at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

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Jonathan Haidt, Professor in the Business and Society Program at NYU Stern School of Business, wrote The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom with the objective of addressing ten great ideas discovered by the world’s civilizations while discussing these ideas in the context of scientific research. He references Buddha, Confucius, Greek and Roman philosophers, the Golden Rule, and even Monty Python.

The book had my head spinning. I was constantly thinking and evaluating myself, my motives, my triggers, and my relationships. It is a great book to read if you are trying to learn more about yourself and you are asking yourself the important life questions. Haidt discusses a hypothesis: a proposed explanation that can serve as a starting point for further investigation. And, his hypothesis has me currently investigating (or being aware) of the following:

  • Negativity Bias. “[T]he human mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly, and persistently than to equivalent good things.” I have tried to remember this as I react to “bad things” and try to even my response and take time to come to a conclusion. Being more even-tempered in my response has brought me a greater sense of calm.
  • “Makes Sense” Stopping Rule. “We take a position, look for evidence that supports it, and if we find some evidence—enough that our position ‘makes sense’—we stop thinking.” I have found myself doing this on a frequent basis. The bulk of my work days are spent in meetings that involve discussions regarding policies, procedures, and new initiatives. I am trying to be cognizant of following a position and stopping thinking (or listening to others) once I have found enough evidence to have my position make sense. Doing so has allowed me to be more open-minded to others’ viewpoints.
  • Importance of Voluntary Activities. Voluntary activities are the ones you choose to do and also happen to be less likely to be prone to the adaptation principle (you respond to new stimuli, but gradually fire less stimuli as you “get used to” an activity). I have to remind myself to make time for those activities that I choose to do (exercise, vacation, hobbies) rather than those I routinely do (weekly meetings).
  • Work is Best When It is About Connection, Engagement, and Commitment. I have been aware of this one for a long time and as I get older and have more life experiences, it becomes more clear. But, I still forget about it. Like most employees in jobs that seem to be constantly moving, with a longer list of to do items every day, I sometimes get caught up in the “projects” and dismiss why I do the work I do—what my purpose is, who my colleagues are, and what the mission of my organization is.
  • Relationships Matter. I know this and in fact I doubt there is a single Good Reads blog entry that I have drafted that does reflect this takeaway. But, I think Haidt says it beautifully:

“Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. It is worth striving to get the right relationships between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, and between yourself and something larger than yourself. If you get these relationships right, a sense of purpose and meaning will emerge.”

I need to remember the relationships in my life beyond those between two humans. So I plan to ask myself daily what is my relationship to work, what is my relationship to the larger Carey community, Hopkins community, the world, something larger than me.

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