Happiness: Always more vs. always enough

It has been a while since my last article on this blog. I guess I have been rather busy. I intend to write more regularly in the future. The main reason is that happiness is an important topic, although too often neglected, just like health. Yet, both are interdependent.

I will resume by looking at whether happiness is the result of always wanting and having more or whether it is just about having always enough. The current economic model is really all about pushing people to always want more. Enough seems just not enough. It is true if the main parameter of economic performance is the GDP, but is the GDP the right indicator?

Happiness is a theme that comes and goes. During periods of economic growth, it seems to be overlooked as shopping seems to be the panacea for continuous bliss. But when the economy is not doing so well, then happiness reappears as an important theme. It was quite noticeable during the Great Recession of 2008. Since money was a bit short and the outlook uncertain, happiness suddenly emerged as being something of value. Even political leaders and the UN were engaging in attempts to use happiness as an indicator of prosperity and considered as something to assess how countries are doing. The example that they all referred to was Bhutan, which has happiness as one of its parameters. The media were adamant about it. It sounded promising and we were perhaps headed toward a different ranking of what is truly important and what makes people happy but then something terrible happened: the economy started to boom again. Since then, who talks about Bhutan and its happiness indicator for global improvement of societies anymore?

With the economy doing well and people having more disposable income, the main concern became the old one again: how to give your hard-earned work money to corporations as quickly and as much as possible and dig yourself into debt? I guess that I am old school but I am not really keen on giving the money that I earn to the richest 1%. For some reason, I believe that they already have more than enough to sustain themselves. Of course, this is a bit of sarcasm but the true reason, as far as I am concerned, is that I do not need always more to be happy. I have reached a point in my life where I have about all I need and I do not feel that I should waste my time and my money in the consumerism rat race.

So let’s have a look at the always more vs. always enough question. The economic model, based on GDP, wants the economy to be about always more transactions (i.e. buying stuff). The GDP is an indicator of growth but it has no particular focus on whether the growth is quantitative or qualitative. In other words, the economy is about buying –and producing- always more, regardless of whether it creates wealth or chaos. One of the reasons is what economists call externalities, which simply put are the long-term economic costs (negative externalities) or benefits (positive externalities). For instance, if mass production means damaging the environment in such a way that health costs increase for the society, these health care costs are not factored in the cost of production and the price of the consumption goods. An interesting illustration could be the health cost of bad nutrition. Society pays for the health care costs of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, but producers and sellers of foods that contribute to the diseases are not charged for the health care costs and thus the health cost of bad foods is not included in the price of foods. Profits are individualized and costs are socialized.

In a system that is focused on quantitative growth (always more), the externalities are something that will have to be looked at later. If we deplete resources or damage our living environment, that is not the problem of today’s GDP, and that is the core of all the difficulties to address climate change for instance. The engine behind quantitative growth is marketing, which has become the art of making you buy a whole bunch of things that you do not really need with money that you do not even need to have right now, either. These consequences will have to be addressed later. They are externalities. To push you to want always more, marketing will trigger all your insecurities and hidden fears. You might not be “cool” or not sexy or not modern or not trendy or not special enough, etc etc… you name it. Well, you cannot live like that, can you? Fortunately, somebody somewhere has exactly what you need to hide all your “flaws” and fool the rest of the world. All you need to do is to spend your money and it will be all fine… for the corporations and the stock markets.

Opposite of that never-ending race, there is the always enough strategy. Just like with always more, you must earn money to sustain such an approach. It is not free, either. The difference is that you will not need as much money as with the always more concept. You also will have to develop a thick skin against all the mind games tricks from the marketers and not mind whatever you neighbours, friends or colleagues may think of you. The thick skin has a name: happiness, and it makes you almost indestructible. Actually, the always enough philosophy rests on qualitative growth. It is about growth that does not have externalities and long-term consequences that cannot be managed. It is much healthier for your finances and it is much gentler on the planet as well. Qualitative growth is the only truly sustainable economic growth model. On the opposite, quantitative growth is not sustainable. In a closed system with finite resources, “always more” leads inevitably to “no more”. The only thing we do not know is when that day will come. That is what wondering about what world we will leave to future generations really comes down to.

Back to the thick skin I mentioned earlier. How can one grow it? Well, while always more is all about having more stuff, always enough is about covering your needs and just that. The focus is about defining yourself by what you are and what you have inside. It is about your own quality, hence the relation to qualitative growth. The model about quantitative growth wants you to define yourself by what you have, by what you buy, it comes from outside (the retailers and the producers), not from inside. If you look at it from a happiness point of view, there are simple questions with simple answers.

  • If you want always more, what is it that you are truly missing?
  • If you are happy, why do you need more?
  • If marketers and corporations decide how you should lead your life, then are you really in charge and in control of your life or are you just being played with? And can you be happy about that?

Another set of questions, looked at from the other end of the scope is

  • Is always enough about meeting your true needs and always more just about wanting instead of needing?
  • When you are truly happy, could it be that you have enough of all you need?
  • If you are happy with yourself, what does it matter what others think?

Of course, different people have different priorities and values. That is why the life plan that I present on this website is based on personal values. Regardless of these values and priorities, long-term consequences are real. Beyond individual values, collective values that shape our societies and our economic models will impact future generations. If the system needs to change, the name of the game is: planned transition. Unfortunately, when we look at economy, people and environment, the rhetoric is too often about changing the system abruptly, which creates resistance and rightly so. Everything needs time to be done well and changing our economic model is no exception to that rule. The irony is that by no giving ourselves the time for a smooth transition, we will end up with an abrupt crisis that we will not be able to postpone anymore and there will not be many happy people when that happens.

Copyright 2019 – Christophe Pelletier – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Passion, Courage and Support

The three words from the title are quite important when it comes to happiness and success. To illustrate this, I will briefly tell the story of an 18-year old young man from France. Romain – that is his name – has had a passion for hospitality for years. When he turned 16, he decided to leave the mainstream high school system and start an apprenticeship to become a professional waiter with an eye to become a sommelier later on.

Passion is a powerful driver. It gives the ability to engage and pursue towards the objective regardless of difficulties and setbacks. It provides an almost indestructible optimism and perseverance. With regards to success, passion certainly contributes greatly to achieve what others might consider difficult or risky. Passion gives a confidence and a desire that shows others that success is possible. This is exactly what Romain has demonstrated over the past two years. His passion and motivation have helped him dare something different and so far he has achieved amazing results. Next to passion, he also has enough courage to dare into new challenges and see what he is worth.

Romain during the competitionHe decided to get out of his comfort zone and to participate in a couple of professional contests. Romain lives not too far away from Lyon and Burgundy. These regions have strong culinary traditions. Some of the greatest French chefs and restaurants are located in the Lyon area. For instance, Paul Bocuse or the Troisgros brothers made their marks from this part of France and achieved worldwide fame. Just one year in apprenticeship, he enlisted to compete in a regional hospitality contest. There were 286 candidates nationwide. He finished second. This opened him the possibility to test himself in the national contest, in which only the top 28 from the regional events were competing. He finished 17th while facing candidates with many more years of practice and experience, and quite a few twice his age. As the professional jury and observers know how to look beyond just the ranking at the event, they are able to spot potential. And Romain has plenty of it, just as well as he has the courage to put himself on the line. This serves him well because after his participation at the national level contest, he got approached by a high-end restaurant owner who wishes to keep in touch with him for later, as he would like to hire him. As another positive consequence of the contest, Romain has been awarded a 2-week training in a high-end restaurant of Parma, Italy, a culinary centre if there is one. There is no need to explain the feeling of pride and achievement for the young man. He dared to risk a disappointment and reaped the promise of an exciting career. Romain is not a mutant. He is pretty much what you could call the boy next door. He is just like most teenagers, a bit shy and still in the process of finding himself. The only difference with others may just be that he overcomes the little knot in the stomach and the clammy hand palms and takes a chance. After all, he had nothing to lose at this stage of his professional development. To succeed, and he does, it just takes a bit of courage to show courage. Of course, such a positive attitude is well-served when your direct environment is there to give the needed support.

The first level of support came from his family. We all hear about stories of people who had dreams and passions that got talked down by those around them. Arguments like “it is not for you” or “that is not a real job” or “in this family, we do not do that kind of work” are not uncommon. We all have heard such stories from successful artists who were stubborn enough to ignore and disobey in order to succeed. Opposite to that, how many people have ended up in jobs they dislike, simply because of pressure from relatives or teachers? Probably more than we think. At least, Romain’s family looked at his future happiness, bought in for his passion and did everything that was possible to find him a good school, a good apprenticeship restaurant and to make him feel that they believed in him and in his future in the professional choice he made. More support came from his teachers who understood his passion and noticed his talent for the hospitality business. That, too, gives a welcome boost to achieve success. And of course, Romain gets full support from his employers at the restaurant where he works as an apprentice. Quite early in his job, they realized his potential and on a busy day with a shortage of staff, they asked him to take charge of the gastronomic restaurant room. He executed his task with baffling effectiveness and professionalism. Romain delivers, and the restaurant patrons appreciate this young lad who shows so much maturity at serving them. It serves Romain quite well, too, as he regularly receives generous tips for his impeccable service. It serves him well with regards with his employers, as he gets even more support back in return for his good work.

So, there you have it! The right mix of passion, courage and support working together to help achieving success, fulfillment and the promise of a happy future for those who have it.

Note: One more detail about Romain: he is my nephew. Like the rest of the family, I am really impressed at what he is achieving. He would love to have an assignment abroad, ideally in New York City. Hopefully, this article will bring him some new opportunities.

Copyright 2014 – Christophe Pelletier/The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

I want to hear laughter!

Here is the best anti-stress medicine I know: laughter. I have applied it in my professional life as well as in my personal life and it works superbly, and there is no negative side effects known to man.

Hahaha!I have spent a long part of my career in industries dealing with perishable products. Per definition, such products cannot be stored for very long and this makes the business dynamics quite intense, and often stressful, as “everything must go” and for a profit, mind you. Therefore, my assignment to them, next to (or I should say as part of) doing the job was to make me hear some laughter. It did not matter what the reason would be, as long as there would be fun. In that line of work, we were lucky to be able to find many reasons to laugh because we were dealing with colorful characters and we could easily find the funny absurdities of the business. The head office would involuntarily also provide for much material to us as well. If my staff would not laugh frequently enough to my liking, I would pop in and bring some craziness of my own to help them out. The results were amazing. With a small team (comparatively to other units of the company or to competitors), we were able to deliver a performance second to none, we were able to solve more problems than the others were, and we were having fun. Even as we worked long hours, nobody burned out. On the contrary, success was constantly bring new and more energy to our team. Once again, the boring, unimaginative and bureaucratic HR department was wrong. Managing is getting things done by your team. Therefore, you had better take good care of your people, and the best way to do that is to have them laugh on the job. It means that they are having fun, and when you are having fun at work, it does not feel like work. Good managers know what is right for their business. Have them laugh!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Ten Signs of a Happy Person

Just hap-pyHappy people are easy to spot. In no particular order of course, you will notice the following about happy people:

  • They are in good health
  • They smile, laugh often, and look at others in the eyes when talking to them
  • They are assertive, and not aggressive
  • They do not show signs of envy or criticize others; they have a positive attitude
  • They are loved and make other people happy
  • They have no addiction, because they just do not need any
  • They like what they do, personally as well as professionally, and they like who they are
  • They are themselves, and they accept others the way they are.
  • They are not selfish or self-centered
  • Problems do not seem to stick to them; they just deal with them.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, how many people do you know meet the above?

Copyright 2009 – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Just Be Yourself!

Being oneself a prerequisite for those who want to grow and be happy in life, personally as well as professionally. Although it would sound like an easy thing to achieve, too many people seem to have difficulties getting there. Many internal and external reasons can explain that, but it is always possible to change for the best.

Why is being oneself so important?

Quite obviously, if you are not yourself, then who are you? The question alone makes clear that it will difficult to know who you are. If you think you are some of your role model, realize that he/she probably was him/herself, and that is why they got in that position of role model. Moreover, if you are playing being someone else, you will miss the opportunity to genuinely improve yourself and achieve higher fulfillment in life.

How can you be yourself?

This can take more or less time to find out, but it is possible and not that complicated. It depends on you. All you need is to have people you trust giving you candid feedback. You have to understand that even the most popular people are not perfect. They have their insecurities as well. An easy way of discovering yourself it to find what you like most and what you like less in less. Capitalize on your assets and limit your liabilities! Accept your limitations and enjoy your talents! After all, no one is talented in everything. All you need to be happier is to do what you do best and like doing it. To find out who you are and to be yourself, you are just going to need to determine how much will, dare, capability and knowledge you have.

Deal with other people’s judgment!

Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion about other people. Most of the time, the judgment is based on very partial information. Most disputes are the result of a lack of communication, of not knowing each other well

It is impossible to please everyone. Whatever you may do and whoever you maybe, there always will be someone out there to criticize you. That is human nature. The only feedback that counts is the one from people who really know you well, and that you trust enough to give you their opinion. Asking these trusted people for feedback is not a test. It is not about passing or failing, but it is about self-knowledge and possibilities of improvement. True friends will not turn you down. They will be candid, and they will do their best to avoid hurting your feelings. Be assured that they will tell you how to improve your life.

Also realize that it is better to get some bad feedback on whom you really are than on whom you trying to be, because in that case, the information is useful for you. If you find difficult to accept yourself, you need to consider two things. First, you are not the only person who feels that way. A surprising large of majority of people tends to underestimate themselves. Secondly, most people have much more potential than they think. All they need is to take more chances. You need to show the world what you can!

Finally, always make sure that you are the one deciding for yourself. Peer pressure as well as your social environment, not even to mention marketing campaigns and the media, have a very powerful impact on how many people think they should be. It is not to them to decide about that. Dare to challenge them! Also, realize that people who are themselves always attract compatible people, thus making their lives more interesting and more fulfilling.

Happiness’s Worst Enemy: Fear

If it is not always easy to find out what makes people happy, it is not difficult to find many reasons why they are unhappy.

In the long list of factors hindering someone from being happy, one reason comes out in particular: fear. In the book “Who moved my cheese?” a quote sums that up: “When you are not afraid, you feel free”. This statement is so true. Fear has a particular ability to make people create their own mental prison, from which it can be difficult to escape. It paralyses us.

There are many causes of fear. Here are just a few, merely because they are rather obvious examples: fear for the own safety, fear of losing a job, fear of losing someone, fear of rejection, fear of failure, etc. Actually, fear produces the opposite of happiness. Happy people expand and radiate. They look for what will come next.

Happiness puts people in motion. It is a very powerful driver to enjoy more of life, since life feels great, and to become more active. When they are afraid, many people tend to undertake less, to isolate themselves, and to become passive. Clearly, such feelings are very negative. With such a mindset, it is difficult to feel happy, and the risks of possible health issues are quite real.

Is the best way to become happy to overcome your fears? To some extent it is, as less fear means fewer inhibitions. The best way to be happy is to be alive. To get there, it is necessary to feel alive first. Of course, this does not mean that ignoring fear is a good solution, as fear has a function of self-preservation, but there are ways of accepting fears and managing them. The best advice is: live! Take chances without putting yourself unnecessarily at risk! Enjoy and be happy about what you have, instead of being unhappy about what you do not have! That latter part will come eventually.

In the End, It Is All About Happiness

Although we sometimes tend to deny it or to forget about it, all our actions are about happiness.

At work, people want to have a rewarding job. They want to feel appreciated and make the money they think they deserve. The boss wants to see good results. The customer wants to get the proper quality. In our personal lives, we look for the right relationships, we have hobbies, and we like spending time with our friends and loved ones.

Why do we wish for all of the above and for more? The answer is simple. When things go our way, it makes us feel good; it makes us feel happy!

Why do people change jobs? Why do people divorce? For these questions, too, the answer is simple. We change our life when we are not happy about it. Yet, not everyone makes such changes. Some settle with an unsatisfying situation. Does this make sense to anyone?

According to the theory of Henri Laborit, it does. He was a French neurobiologist and writer who studied the behavior of people when they face adverse situations. According to him, people have three ways to deal with unpleasant situations such as conflicts:

  • Running away
  • Fighting back
  • Inhibition

The French movie, Mon Oncle d’Amérique, illustrates his works by means of a comparison with lab experiments. The research background presented in the movie is a set of experiments with lab rats that Laborit carried out.

In the first experiment, the rat is in a cage with two compartments separated with a wall that has an opening allowing the rat to change compartments. Only one compartment has a floor that can be electrified. The rat gets a warning with a buzzer and four seconds later, the current flows in the floor. Very quickly, the rat realizes that when it goes into the other compartment, where the floor is insulated, it escapes the punishment. All the physical tests carried out show that the rat is in perfect health. The rat is fine.

Then, the operator shuts the opening between the two compartments. The rat cannot escape the punishment. Very quickly, we can see the rat being completely stressed, with its hair straight up and breathing quickly. The rat is not doing well at all.

Then, the operator adds a second rat in the cage. Both rats have no other choice than to take the electrical current. Instead of getting stressed and ill, the rats fight with each other, and it appears that this helps the dominant one to be perfectly healthy again.

The message of the movie is that people experience such situations everyday in our societies, and it affects them. Sometimes, they choose to run away from difficult situations to avoid the tension, such as quitting a job because of a bad boss, instead of enduring stress every day. Sometimes, they fight back, even fight literarily, although the laws do not accept violence as a way of resolving conflicts. When people have no possibility to run away or fight, Henri Laborit’s theory is that they choose inhibition and do nothing at all. They simply take the punishment. Some can compensate this by fighting with their spouses at home, but this usually does not bring much good, either. According to Laborit, inhibition is the stage of angst, and angst is the result of the inability to cope with a situation that seems to have no solution. This usually results in ailment and even diseases, be it physical like ulcers or even cancer, or be it psychological leading to neurosis or depression. Turning against the own body becomes the way of fighting back, and the ultimate act of violence that one can commit against oneself is suicide.

On the other hand, he also noticed that when the rat experiences something that brings satisfaction and pleasure, its natural impulse is to get more of it. If it feels good, then it must be good!

This illustrates nicely how important it is to try constantly to look for satisfaction in our lives, at work and at home.

Excerpt rom Mon Oncle d’Amerique (in French)

The Meaning of Life

Some topics have the ability to keep people busy for a while. The meaning of life is one of these topics because the answer is difficult to find and it never can be verified with certainty. Depending on whether the person pondering about it is a scientist, a theologian, a philosopher or a sports fan, the way they will answer this question will vary quite substantially.

This is why this question remains mostly an intellectual exercise. It can be satisfying, but it lacks practicality. Instead of tormenting oneself with the absolute answer that no one can find, simply because there may not be such an absolute answer, it is better to deal with this topic in a much more stimulating and practical way. All that is needed is to change slightly the question, from “What is the meaning of life?” to “What meaning do I want to give to my life?”. This simple shift of scope can do wonders, and quite rightly so. It now offers you the possibility to become your own Creator, thus shifting the scope of another difficult quest for absolute truth that has kept humanity busy for eons.

There are a few simple steps and simple things can help you creating a very meaningful life.

Firstly, you need to identify which values are truly important to you. Then you need to identify what makes you feel alive.

Instead of letting your environment make the decisions that will shape your life, your life will become easier to manage once you take charge and keep the initiative. Of course, nothing comes easily, and when you meet resistance, you must persevere.

Usually, people tend to focus more on negative events than on the positive ones. It may be a natural reaction, but it is the wrong approach. It is just as easy to spot the positives, but it requires a different mindset. Whatever may happen, force yourself to see the positive signs and remaining enthusiastic.

Nothing is carved in stone. Life is in continuous evolution. If you want to improve your life, you must take any opportunity you find to learn and improve. It will take you out of your comfort zone, but you quickly will reap the rewards and realize the advantage of doing so. Do not be afraid of setbacks. They are part of life anyway. Just see them as an opportunity to beat adversity and explore your real abilities. Most people always tend to underestimate themselves. Usually, they are capable of much more than they think they do. They just need to discover their true potential.

Making decisions is the easiest and fastest way to overcome problems and to keep moving on. Most people feel stuck because they do not make any decision. This is the worst one can do. There cannot be any action and progress by keeping the status quo. Once you decide on something, things happen. Then of course, you need to keep making decision and adapt. One decision does not solve everything at once.

Giving a meaning to your life is all about pursuing fulfillment and finding gratification in your activities, as much in your personal life as well as in your professional life. However, you must build your life for yourself first, because all that counts is that your life means something to you.

The worst thing that can happen to a person is to have a meaningless life. That can happen only by waiting and not taking action. So, live, experience, try and share!

Are You Living Your Dreams?

Dreaming your lifeFrom early childhood, we all have had our ideas and dreams about how life would be later. You know, “when I grow up, I want to…”

Yet, later in life, many people seem to have forgotten about these dreams or, worse, they have given up on them. This is sad, because there are not many things that can energize and motivate someone as the pursuit of something very dear: to be the person he/she always wanted to be.

The role of parents is quite important in the future development of individuals. Having supportive and open-minded parents who encourage their children to pursue what they really want to do, is indeed good and important. Their giving support shows the children that what they aim at is worth it. Consciously going after something meaningful is one of the most motivating things there is.

This way of parenting allows children to be aware of their personality and of their possibilities at a young age. It makes it easier for the children to decide how their lives life would be like. Knowing what one wants always helps the person to keep the course. It is a source of much satisfaction to have the privilege of living one’s childhood’s dreams. However, dreaming is not just for children. Dreaming is a work in progress. It is nice to pursue one’s childhood’s dreams, but sometimes, circumstances change or the dreams do not appear to be as realistic or sensible, as they seemed first. It is easy then to forget about them. That is not really a problem as long as you keep the ability to keep envisioning who you want to be. With age comes more experience, more self-awareness and this is why it is never too late to think and dream of what and who to be later. This process has nothing to do with a mid-life crisis. That is something else. It is not about dreaming about the future; it is the mourning of the past.

Those who have been lucky to live most of their youth’s dreams will tell you how they feed. They are happy and fulfilled people who want to make it possible for others to experience the same.

Who you want to be is the mix of what you love to do, what you do best, what your values are, where and with whom you want to make this happen. The worst thing a person can do to her/himself is to not try at all, and to regret it for the rest of his/her life.

The question that you must ask yourself is: “Are you living your dreams?” If not, what happened then? More importantly, what are you going to do about it? Can you think of better objectives today, thanks to a better knowledge of yourself? What is keeping you from trying, and how can you overcome such hurdles? It is only by trying repeatedly that one succeeds.

Copyright 2009 – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd

The Life Plan will help you increase personal fulfillment

Your level of happiness or fulfillment is generally a direct consequence of how much you live your life and live in an environment that matches your values.

The Happy Future Group developed a Life Plan program to help you identify how balanced your life and your values are, and from there we help you build your own specific action list.

The process is simple. To identify your values, you will confront your own findings with some of your friends’ assessment of what truly drives you. Involving trusted friends to participate makes this process more fun and more rewarding. It also avoids this search to feel like a questioning, and at the same time, it will give you a much more objective feedback. After all, every person is who they really are, but also whom they show and who others think they are. By reducing the discrepancy between these three apparently different persons, your level of happiness will naturally increase.

By assessing how much fulfillment the different parts of your life match your core values, you will get your own “fulfillment index”. From that index and its analysis, it will become rather easy and obvious what actions you will need to take to increase your level of fulfillment.

The philosophy of the action list is all about incremental improvement. Consider your current life as being the ground zero. Each action when completed will help you live more to your values, and therefore you will achieve progress one step at a time. The timelines are the ones you feel comfortable with. All you need is to fully commit to the process. Should you “soften” a bit, we will help you remember what you promised yourself to achieve.

All you need to complete this process to success is to have the willingness to make it work, to be yourself and to spend the necessary time and energy.

To be happy, you do not need to go up the mountain to find yourself. It is all here and now, inside and around you!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.