Sunday, March 07, 2021

Life Lately: "I can increase your happiness"

When I took this picture of Zajecarski, Serbia, I did not know I would be fast-walking (running) away from a dog on this street within the hour.

I don’t want a huge pimple on my nose; I don’t have one. In fact, given how much trouble I had with pimples as a teenager, it’s fair to expect my children to get a free pass. I don’t want to lie in bed unable to sleep because of the cacophony of generators; I don’t have to - for now. I am afraid of all dogs and don’t want to live in a house that has one; I don’t.

When we think about the things that make us happy, the things we are grateful for, we tend to focus on the things we want and have. Good memories of departed family members. Family and friends that are still here. Our jobs or businesses. Holidays – past and future. Money in the bank. PlayStation consoles.

We don’t often think about the things we don’t want and don’t have, things that contribute to our happiness by their continued absence in our lives. I haven’t made a list, but I strongly suspect the list of things I don’t want and don’t have is longer than the list of things I want and have.

Reflecting on this slide in class increased the universe of reasons I had to be happy

I never thought about this 'happiness quadrant' until I took a course on Management Decision Making at INSEAD, taught by the brilliant Emre Soyer, author of The Myth of Experience and one of my favorite professors. In fact, this image is a screenshot from one of his slides. As I reflected on the discussions in class and on my own experience, I realized I often focused too much on the reds – the things I wanted and didn’t have and the things I had but didn’t want. Emre said at the beginning of that class that he could “increase our happiness”. Indeed, reflecting on this slide increased the universe of reasons I had to be happy.

We all have the ‘reds’. In fact, some ‘reds’ are good for us. You can argue that a lot of human progress is due to our work to create the things we want but don’t have. Additionally, we may learn virtues such as patience and perseverance from the things we have but don’t want.

The point of this is that a quick win when you need to ‘increase’ your happiness, or be more grateful, is to remember the universe of things you don’t want and don’t have.


I am excited about the coming week. There’s lots of work to do and a run of important meetings, but it’s also a 3-day work week! I’ve got a four-day weekend to hang out with Busola, take long walks, read, fall asleep in the bath tub, and do the other fun things introverts do in a national lockdown. It’s also our wedding anniversary this week and that is so exciting!

Well, I wish you a great week too – with lots more reasons to be happy and grateful.


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