Monday, June 7, 2010

Traveling the Route of Happiness


I recently read Delivering Happiness, the fascinating story of Tony Hsieh (pronounced "Shay") and how his company, Zappos, became the billion dollar-per-year business it is now.  At 24 years old, Tony and a close friend sold their company, LinkExchange, for $265 million.  Feeling unfulfilled after, Tony then started Zappos, nearly lost all of his money in his efforts to bring it to success, but eventually helped the company rise to what it is now.  Along the way, he achieved what I truly found to be amazing: A way to make all of his employees and their partnering companies even more passionate about what they are a part of.  By doing so, he delivered a new level of happiness to their lives (for more information about Tony's story, go to

While happiness is a different component of health than those usually discussed on Health-Actualization, I want to discuss it today because happiness is the most important currency there is.  The objective of every action in our lives should be happiness.  With that in mind, here are some of the key points from Tony's breakdown of happiness in his book:

The Four Parts to Happiness
  1. Perceived control of your own life.
  2. Perceived ongoing progress.
  3. Connectedness-having close friends, coworkers, and/or family that you are very engaged with (for example, part of why Zappos' employees are so happy with their work is because they spend a lot of time together during and after work days).
  4. Vision/Meaning-having an ongoing purpose that's bigger than yourself and not just achieving wealth or profits.  
Three Types of Achieved Happiness
  1. Higher Purpose-the longest lasting happiness.  You are a part of something (a relationship, a work project, a volunteer purpose, a sports team) that is bigger than yourself.  
  2. Passion-doing something you're very interested and engaged in.  
  3. Pleasure-achieving a high of some kind.  An example of this is going on vacation, sky diving, or winning the lottery.  This is the shortest lasting stimuli of the group.
Finally, I'd like to leave you with some small tips I have found to increase the level of happiness in my own life.  Some of these may be proven to work, while others could just be related to me.  Enjoy:

  • Simplicity: keeping to-do lists to three or less activities per day.  Avoid having too many priorities (can a person effectively address priorities if there are too many?).  A way to cut some things off the list is to look at it and say, "what's the worst that could happen if I don't do this?"
  • Temper control.  The belief that acting out of anger will "get it out of your system" is untrue [read Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)]. Giving in to those feelings will only lead to similar and possibly worse action in the future. When you get mad, pause for a second, think rationally, and then act rationally.  
  • Don't hold grudges.  Doing so will only make you unhappy.
  • Keep time open in your week for the unplanned.  To me, many of the greatest experiences in life are spontaneous.
  • Live in the present.  Don't worry about what might happen tomorrow, and don't stress over the past.
  • Assess yourself honestly.  Be open about mistakes and flaws instead of being defensive.
  • Be honest to others.  Lying requires a lot more energy and effort.
  • Smile at angry people.  
  • Don't chase down people who stepped on your shoe, bumped into you, or cut you off when driving (these things happen a lot in NY).  If you forget about it and move on, you won't carry the burden of that anger with you.
  • Change your attitude towards things you hate.  I hated the dentist as a child, so I made a conscious effort to change that in my late teens.  I went in with the attitude of trying to joke around with everyone who worked at the office, and it very quickly became a fun experience.  I actually developed strong bonds with the people who work there and look forward to going in.
  • Limit TV time.  I find myself less productive (and therefore less accomplished) when getting sucked into TV on occasion.  This may also have to do with my next tip...
  • Educate yourself often.  Read frequently.  Knowledge truly is power.
  • Don't starve yourself.  Extremely low calorie diets cause irritability. 
  • Strength train.  It might eliminate some of the aggravating pain you have now, and it can prevent pains you might get in the future.
  • Spend time outdoors daily, even if it's only for a few minutes.
  • Get rid of clutter.  This also goes back to simplicity as well.  I truly believe that owning more stuff equals more stress.  
  • Have dreams that you feel passionate about and work towards fulfilling them.  If you can't easily name a few things that you are passionate about, take the time to figure out what they are (or maybe you need to take the time to find out what they are).
  • Don't expect happiness to come in some kind of achievement or object, because it won't.  An example of this is thinking that having a better body will make you happy.  Sadly, I know many beautiful women who are miserable.  The point is: be happy now.  As one of the quotes in the signature of my emails says: Happiness is not a destination but a way of travel. 

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