Happiness is over-rated

“Cut the happiness crap, Tyler!”

That’s what a coworker used to holler at me when I was cheerful at the water cooler at 7:00am each work day. He said it with a smile and proclaimed he was teasing, but it stuck with me. Twenty-five years later, I think that guy was on to something.

There is a lot written about happiness these days. Amazon has 22,329 books on the subject right now. A Google search found 46 million articles, with most promising to tell us how to be happier and why we should seek happiness. I have read a few articles about happiness, and I agree with much of what is researched and written about it. However, there is something missing.

There are three perspectives overlooked in the highly publicized search for happiness millions seem to be conducting, and they are worth pondering.

  1. The expectation to be happy. If we expect to be happy all the time, we will be thrown off when life takes an unavoidable turn. The fact is, life’s journey includes some detours once in a while. People get sick, companies close down, children become teenagers. Life happens, and it’s not always full of skipping through sunflowers whistling Zippity Doo Dah. When we expect to be happy every day, we either shove the sadness deep inside to hide it or we are overwhelmed by the bad stuff and get stuck in misery.
  2. The pressure to be happy. The peer pressure to be happy causes stress and can damage relationships. When you’re struggling with one of life’s obstacles, and you turn to a friend for support, do you love it when the friend says, “You shouldn’t be disappointed by your manager leaving the company. The new one will be even better.” We don’t really enjoy someone else pressuring us to “get over it.” We all have feelings we need to grapple with, and we will do so in good time. Pressure not to feel the sadness is not helpful.
  3. The lost opportunities caused by happiness. The expectation and pressure to be happy cause us to miss out on the benefits of adversity. In our effort to be happy every minute, we are likely to take fewer risks or deny a challenge facing us. Happiness can blind us of reality and prevent us from rising above obstacles, which is unfortunate because there are few feelings better than those experienced after surmounting an obstacle or staring down a challenge. We rob ourselves of those feelings by trying to stay happy all the time.

When we deny life’s detours or go out of our way to avoid them entirely, we are telling ourselves a few things. We’re saying, “You’re not capable of overcoming that obstacle.” Or, “You’re not good enough to figure out a new way.” Or, “No one cares if you reach the destination.”

Let’s not sabotage ourselves with such negativity. Instead, let’s face the reality of all situations and let’s face challenges head-on. Look forward to the sense of accomplishment, don’t avoid it. We don’t have to “cut the happiness crap” completely. Let’s just keep it in perspective.

The big favor FOMO can do for you

The annual transition between Summer and Fall offers an opportunity for two actions: to reflect on the year and to identify how to spend the last three months of it. Are you pleased with your year so far? Are you well on the way toward accomplishing the goals you had in mind? Or, did you miss out on something you would have liked to do?

If the reflection brings to mind what you missed out on, you might suffer from FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out

In the five-minute video, Dan Ariely, Duke University Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, shares what FOMO is and how is causes regret.

He explains so clearly how we are affected when we barely miss our goals versus when we are off by a long shot. You might be surprised which one we prefer, according to the research.

Usually FOMO is discussed in very negative terms. It does spark regret afterall. But, it can do do something great for us too. The big favor FOMO delivers is the opportunity to change. If the only time you ponder what you're missing is when it's too late, you'll miss opportunities to change.

If your Facebook feed is full of friends' posts about their summer vacations to Europe, and you wish you had made time for one, make time now. Can you still take a trip this year? Or, plan one into 2017 before it fills up too. If you can't fit one in this year and you don't want to plan around one next year, then ask yourself if you really want a European trip.

It might turn out that you don't have FOMO. You have NFM instead: Not For Me. I just made that up, and it means you can be glad your friends had those trips but you don't want one. Obviously, there would be no need to tell them that. It's just for you to use to re-frame how you viewed your Facebook feed.

From now on, when you feel FOMO, pay attention to it. You might decide you really do what to do whatever is causing the feeling, so you make it happen. Or, it might turn out that you are content to skip it. Either way, you will decide. And, that is the favor of FOMO.

You may be wasting time at work without even knowing it


We all need a break now and then. We need to call home, write the list of errands to complete on the way home, or email a professor coursework due that night. Taking ten or fifteen minutes once in a while to handle personal business is not wasting time at work.
Of more concern than a few minutes now and then is when time is wasted without awareness.
Here are a few examples:
When entering a division meeting, a colleague within David’s division asks him how a project is going. The colleague, Glenn, is not David’s supervisor but is someone he has worked with on other projects. David happily tells Glenn all about the project as they walk into the meeting and get seated next to each other. Glenn emails David an idea about the project the next day. David replies that the idea is very helpful and will be considered as the project proceeds. He includes something about keeping Glenn informed about the project going forward. Glenn responds that he looks forward to keeping in touch about it.
How could this situation lead to wasting time?
Here’s another one.
A five-person team is working on a project. One teammate, Pauline, writes an article about it for the intranet site at the team’s request. It is an internal article, not an external one or a promotional piece. Pauline sends the article to all teammates for review. One teammate sent the article to his own supervisor to get his input.
How could that lead to wasting time?
Here’s one more.
Peter and Mary were asked to create and deliver a new training course for their division. They have weekly meetings to discuss actions taken thus far and next steps. After the weekly meeting, they divide and conquer with each doing whatever task they named at the meeting. When they get the first draft, they will set a time to meet with the division head about the program and will take it from there.
How could their approach waste time?
Okay, one more.
Jill is working on a proposal due in three days. She just found out one of the most important subcontractors, with unique skills needed for the solution, backed out today. Without a key area of the solution covered, Jill needs to decide how to proceed. She can get a new subcontractor to replace the one that exited the proposal. Or, she could advise her management team that the proposal cannot go forward.
How would either of those options impact Jill’s time? Or, others’ time?
Even with good intentions and the culture of trust at the forefront of our minds, it is not always easy to spot the potential for wasting time. The following ideas can help us avoid spending time ineffectively:
Stop winging it. Nearly all projects need some kind of plan. Whether it is ten pages long with timelines and a team or it’s a list of five bullets, every project needs some thought in advance. Winging it rarely leads to efficiency, and more often causes swirl. At minimum, write a list of tasks needed to be completed and dates for each. Don’t rely on memory for work if you’re trying to be efficient or at the top of your game.
Understand your span of authority. We all have a certain span of authority with our positions. Understand yours and gain input from others as needed. The tendency to gain input for everything can slow teams down. With that said, however, be absolutely certain you have the experience to operate within the span given. If you are attempting something new or making a decision that affects more than one or two people, get support. Seek guidance from colleagues with more experience often; however, do so without relinquishing your responsibility for the decision.
Say “Yes” first. When you work somewhere for a long time, it’s tempting to bring up history along with each new project or idea. Every day people say, “We’ve already tried that here and it didn’t work.” Or, “We have always done it this way.” Keep those historical experiences in mind and share them when ideas develop, not when they are first brought up. They waste time because the conversation ends up being about history, why it did or did not work, or how now is different. Save that battle. It might be unnecessary anyway.
Avoid the weapons of mass distraction. Turn off alerts for Facebook, Snap Chat, and other social platforms. Turn off email pop-up notifications, set a time to check email throughout the day instead of one at a time upon arrival, and create rules to manage incoming email efficiently.
Stop multitasking. Multitasking got trendy for a while, but research is proving it is wasting time. MIT’s Dr. Earl Miller is one of the leading researchers on multitasking, and his studies show there is no such thing. People are not really doing two things at once, they are switching rapidly between two or three things. That is causing errors, duplication of effort, and stress. We all have more than one task on our plates at the same time. Single-tasking, instead of multi-tasking, just means focusing on whatever you are working on at the moment. Work at a quick clip—avoiding distractions and interruptions—and complete the work. Bouncing all over the place wastes time.
Contribute well to meetings. If I had a dollar for every time someone complained about inefficient meetings, I’d be wealthier than last week’s Powerball winners. There is zero excuse for meetings without objectives and agendas. Even if both must be stated at the start of the meeting, state them. Identify the topics needed to discuss, plan an appropriate amount of time for each, and proceed as planned. If deviation from the agenda is needed, advise the participants. Holding people hostage is annoying and rude. Side conversations, being unprepared, and not following the agenda are too. Pay attention so topics do not have to be repeated, especially if you participate via the phone. Whether you are the host or participant, you contribute to whether the meeting is useful or a time-suck.
Be aware of how you spend time each day. They say time is a gift. Each day, we are given the gift of 1,440 minutes. Be selective about how you spend each one and don’t take any one for granted by wasting it without awareness.
What else helps you be efficient at work? Share more tips.