The Happiness Formula

happiness-formula

A pseudo-mathematical approach to being happier life, in almost every way possible.

Whether you’re a naturally happy person, or often find yourself unhappy despite having “success” in the form of having love, family, money, power, or fame, I will show you how you be happier than you are right now.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to earn more than $75,000 to be any happier, and the Harvard Grant Study found that the “warmth of relationships throughout life has the greatest positive impact on life satisfaction”.

So the question is, how can you create a life that moves towards joy, contentment, and happiness, and away from being unhappy, depressed, or purposeless?

The Happiness Formula

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Maximizing your Freedom

Freedom is what you get when you have the unfettered ability to do what you want, when you want, and whom you want, without having to give up your passions, dreams, or interests for that of other’s.

It’s not about being selfish; it’s about being able to pursue your life’s purpose without worrying about everything else that’s keeping you from doing so.

“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How’s that for incentive to be effective and efficient?” — Timothy Ferris

You can maximize your freedom by practicing Tim Ferriss’s DEAL methodology. In a nutshell:

  • Delegate: Take non-essential tasks and activities in your life and delegate them where appropriate. If you are an entrepreneur, this means setting up operations manuals and training for your employees, and if you happen to be an employee, check out FancyHands which allows you to have a virtual assistant for as little as $25/month.
  • Eliminate: Clean out the closet literally and figuratively. By practicing minimalism, you can cut out distractions and bloat in your life. This also reduces decision fatigue and conserves your attention to focus on projects that are essential.
  • Automate: There are four things you can do to automate your life right now. Sign up for Unroll.me and Sanebox to unsubscribe to all the junk mail in your inbox and also to triage incoming email. Automate your finances by setting up automatic bill payments and savings. Setup IFFT and Zapier to leverage technology that can connect everything from your email and your calendar to automating your home.
  • Liberate: What does your bucket list look like? How long have you kept ‘putting it off’ till the right time? There won’t be one if you can’t put the D.E.A in D.E.A.L into place. Liberation doesn’t have to mean moving to the other side of the world. It can mean something as simple as having the night off to enjoy reading a book or catching a movie because you’ve automated your bill payments. It can mean having a less stressful week, by not having to worry about ‘all’ your email because Sanebox only surfaces the most important ones. It can mean coming home to your laundry done and your clothes folded, because TaskRabbit took care of that for you. So the question is, wouldn’t you feel happier with all the extra time that you just earned back to yourself?

Be More Spontaneous

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

When was the last time you passed up an opportunity to hang out with friends, meet up with an old co-worker? You can be more spontaneous by just learning to say ‘yes!’ to the opportunities you come across in life, however small or large.

How does being spontaneous make you happier? 

Being spontaneous exposes you to more experiences that you would have otherwise said no to. This reduces regret and fear of missing out, increasing the propensity to find experiences that are new, fun, out-of-the-ordinary. As they say “variety is the spice of life”.

But I have too much going on. How do I make the time to be spontaneous? 

I hear you. I often feel the same way. So here’s how to ease into being more spontaneous.

  • Assess your routines to learn how to break out of them. You’ll need to note down the things you the same way every day from the moment you get up to the point at which you go to bed. These are things you’ll want to play with to mix things up and keep them interesting.
  • Reconnect with old friends and coworkers. Look at your Facebook friends list. Chances are you haven’t connected with 70%+ of them in over a year. A lot can happen in that time so shoot an old friend a message and invite them out to coffee, to a place of their choosing.
  • Give up a bit of control to expose yourself to new experiences. If you like planning everything down to the last detail this can be tough to deal with but it can also be pleasantly surprising. Start small by opting for the server or chef at a restaurant to surprise you with their menu recommendations. You’ll need to trust the gut of others, so why not have a delicious experience while you’re at it?
  • Stop putting off experiences and act on them today. Instead of planning something for the near future, ask yourself “is there any reason I shouldn’t commit to this right now?”. By asking the right question, you’ll open yourself up to new experiences instead of finding ways to justify delaying them.

Claim New Opportunities

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas A. Edison

Stop letting great opportunities pass you by. Making your mind up about claiming a new opportunity is more than half the challenge.

Be Fearless

“My life has been filled with calamities, some of which actually happened.” — Mark Twain

95% of the things we worry about never happen. You are capable of far more than you give yourself credit for, so be fearless in pursuing your passions. Far too often, people choke and self-sabotage their potential for success because fear takes over. Don’t let this happen to you.

Exude Confidence

We can change our lives in the snap of a finger if we change our physiology, focus, and conditioning — Tony Robbins.

Confidence comes from your mind convincing itself of your worth in the world as opposed to people and tokens of achievement providing validation for that same self-worth. So how do you become more confident?

  • Change your posture. Stop slouching and sitting up straight.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Try looking a stranger in the eye for 30 seconds without breaking your gaze. The objective isn’t to be creepy.
  • Ask smarter questions. Refer to my post on asking “Why” more.
  • Make other people feel great. Thoughtful and truthful compliments only please.
  • Value your health. Get enough sleep and exercise.

Manage Regret

“In looking back, I see nothing to regret and little to correct.”
John C. Calhoun

Regret is past-tense decision-making, draining you of your positivity in this present moment, and possibly may haunt you at many moments in the future.

Your regrets are a part of you. It isn’t easy to forget them and there are often valid reasons why you shouldn’t. The moment when your regrets take a hold of you, debilitating your progress and hindering the ‘future’ you’re working towards is the moment in which you must learn to focus.

To regret is human, but to carry this regret is something we can all fight. Instead, balance the scales. Accept your regrets but do not let them define you.

Face Your Fears

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie

Fear is real. Fear is incapacitating. Fear can be a very good motivator if you only choose to let it be so for you. Face your fears head on, and you might just find that you overestimated what you were so afraid of in the first place.

Rebel Against Conformity

“Don’t ever forget the moment you began to doubt transitioning from fitting in to standing out.” — Drake

My biggest fear in life is being mediocre. Conformity by definition pushes you to the average, and the average is in most cases, also mediocre.

You may face huge social pressure to conform, from your family, friends, co-workers, and society at large. Conformity is accepted because it is the safe option. It is the option that people are least likely to judge you by if you fail.

The best version of ‘you’ is the one where you get to be yourself in an authentic fashion. Keep associating with the people in your life who cheer you on in this endeavour, and away from those who keep telling you to fall in line.

Manage Expectations

You either manage your expectations or your expectations manage you. It starts out small, a co-worker or boss asks you to do something that you weren’t anticipating. You shrug your shoulders and hesitantly accept the ask. Compounded many times over, you now aren’t able to deliver on the most important and essential tasks because you’ve got ‘too much on your plate’. Learn to say “No” and always underpromise and overdeliver.

Ditch Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is the precursor to self-sabotage. You are capable and competent in more ways than you give credit for.

There are no secrets or shortcuts to being happier. It takes focus, clarity, and commitment on a daily basis and it is almost always a moving target, unique to the eye of the beholder. But by practicing the aspects of life to maximize and minimize above, you have a greater chance of being happier than you’ve ever felt before.

Deconstructing Motivation: 7 Things I’ve Learned in the Last 7 Years

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People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing; that’s why we recommend it daily. – Zig Ziglar

The struggle is real. It’s just so much easier to “do nothing” even when there is so much that need’s to get done. To combat overwhelm, a to-do list is simply not enough. Prioritization and the 80/20 rule aren’t either. What you really need is that inner fuel that keeps pushing you harder, like a motivational high that gets you in the zone.

What separates highly motivated people from those who struggle to find their own personal motivation? Over the past 7 years of my professional career in marketing here’s what I’ve found works:

1. Set the Right Rewards

Big goals need big pay-offs. By setting the right rewards or incentives before you begin your work you’ll know exactly what you’re working towards when you finish. I like to set bigger goals for myself because I typically get bored doing mundane things. It is important to map mundane tactical activities to a larger goal that has a prize worthy of striving for. Whether it’s that great steak-dinner at the end of a long work-week, or a weekend getaway because you finished that overdue project, setting the right rewards are a great way to fuel your motivation.

2. Dose Yourself with Dopamine

Chemicals play a huge role in influencing our moods and overall physical and mental drive. When pursuing certain activities such as exercise, listening to music, or chewing gum your brain releases Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a pivotal role in how motivated you are. By leaving a breadcrumb trail of linked dopamine releasing activities, your brain can be conditioned to produce more dopamine.

You can hack your dopamine levels by getting enough sleep, eating foods with tyrosine (such as bananas), and by getting enough daily exercise. Dopamine is a fascinating neurotransmitter and I will likely do a follow-up post diving further into the topic.

3. Set Micro-Goals and Milestones

Feeling like you start out the day motivated but lose steam along the way? You’re not alone. Setting micro-goals that map to your ultimate goals is a great way of “chunking” your tasks down into manageable pieces. I like to set 2 hour sprints for tasks during the day and then typically chunk the beginning, middle, and end with breaks in between. Take short breaks after each sprint to refresh your mind before refocusing on your to-do’s again. In many cases the break can be your micro-reward for each sprint.

4. Focus on the 80/20 Principle

Billionaires and the those in poverty have one thing in common: We all have the same 24 hours in each day. The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle essentially states that inputs and outputs in life are not distributed evenly. In other words, the 20% of things you choose on will influence 80% of your overall outcomes.

I have this terrible habit of overcrowding my whiteboard with to-do’s. To prevent prioritizing activity over action, I typically take a photo of the white board with my iPhone and then erase every task on there till I have only 2-3 tasks left over. Tim Ferriss advises to select the 2-3 tasks that are so important that they will render all the other tasks un-important for the rest of your day. This is a phenomenal approach to focus on the quality of output vs. volume of output.

5. Be Manic about Reducing Distractions

Studies show that it can take between 30-45 minutes to refocus on your task at hand once your train of thought and focus is interrupted. Based on this you can regain over a quarter of your day simply by reducing distracting and batching similar tasks together. I’ve started using an app called Freedom that effectively blocks out the internet (and thus most distractions) when completing my most important tasks. Reaching Inbox Zero is a dream for many but learning to condition yourself to not look at your email constantly is an entirely different challenge. Give yourself a head start by doing the following:

  1. Unsubscribe from every newsletter that you haven’t read in the last two weeks. Use Unroll.me to make this easy.
  2. Turn off all your alerts and notifications from your email, social media networks, and especially on your smart phone.
  3. Batch your email by setting up auto-responders. Check it once between 11am-12 and again between 4-5pm. Checking and responding to email is usually a high-volume, low-creativity oriented task that is best suitest to your lowest points of productivity every day.

6. Commit to your Goal Publicly.

Publicly declaring your goal can effectively make you try much harder to achieve it. No one wants to be embarrassed in front of their peers for being unable to meet their goals. How about if you put money on the line? Check out GoFuckingDoIt to publicly commit your goals, pick a friend to become a goal supervisor, and pay up a bet in case you don’t complete your goal. It’s a bit like a swear jar… only better.

7. Focus on Attention instead of Time.

The amount of attention you have in a day directly influences the value of your time spent on various activities. By focusing on your attention on tasks that require higher levels of creativity and brain work you’ll not only be able to achieve more, you’ll enjoy and appreciate the process. Each day is divided into 24 equal blocks of 1 hour blocks, but your attention typically peaks at certain points of the day (like the morning or very late at night) but troughs at other points (in the afternoon when you need a caffeine fix).

Embracing these 7 ways to hack your motivation will not only allow you to do more, but enjoy yourself in the process. How do you hack your own motivation? I’d love to hear more from you in the comments.