Archives for posts with tag: Happiness

It’s tough being a kid, especially a teenage one. It’s the one decade where you change out of all recognition. So much to learn, so much to get your head around.

It’s no wonder that kids seem to be all over the place sometimes, their poor brains scrambled as they rewire at an alarming rate through adolescence.

I know my kids often struggled with remembering to bring stuff with them, or to bring stuff back, or to give me things from school. So much going on, and so much to remember.

It’s unfair to expect them to remember everything, so you have to take memory out of it. You have to make it systematic: an automatic, engrained behaviour for a situation.

Give them a system, or a process, that they can follow until it’s almost instinctive. After all, that’s what you did when you taught them how to go to the toilet, hold their knife and fork, or tie their laces.

In point of fact, this advice works in work as well as play, for cutting down the errors, the miscommunications and the inconsistencies. A culture of system or process services us all brilliantly well. And then, on those occasions when we cut loose and get spontaneous, it’s so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

 

The Germans have a word, actually I’m sure they have several other such examples, that conveys something that’s really hard to express in English without using a far less economical explanation.

Wikipedia describes the word as ‘a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities encompassed by the term include coziness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being springing from social acceptance.’

Whenever I think of the word I imagine being in a warm chalet half-way up a ski slope, with a roaring fire, comfy chairs, a bunch of friends and family, and a glass of gluhwein or a bowl of gulaschsuppe with a hunk of bread. I don’t ski very often at all, but I hope I’m conveying that feeling of snugness, without I hope, the feeling of smugness, that we can all experience without going alpine.

One of the wonders of there being loads of different languages is that they all have certain words relating to their own culture and are so idiomatic that you need a paragraph or even a book to do them justice in your own tongue. Another example would be the Danish word hygge, which is surprisingly close to gemütlichkeit in its meaning.

Whatever your own preference of word, I wish you much of it.

C’est la vie – this is the life! Or, as my good lady’s aunt pronounces it, ‘sest lav eye’.

What better phrase is there to sum up the pinnacle of being alive in a great moment? When you’re lying down with the sun on your face, or admiring an amazing view from the comfort of a chair, or enjoying a drink with friends in a place with gemütlichkeit, it’s those precious times when you are conscious of how lucky you are.

I wrote recently about the importance of enjoyment, and making an effort to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. The self-help best seller and blogger Tim Ferriss also alluded to it in his 5-bullet Friday email when he picked for his ‘quote I’m pondering’ a Kurt Vonnegut line from the book A Man without a Country:

‘And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

Which, I guess you could say, is the exact North American translation of c’est la vie.

How to live a long healthy life, stimulated in both work and play, with a loving family and trustworthy, supportive friends?

I was watching this video recently from BBC Reel about a certain region of Japan where they believe they’ve found the 4 secrets to long life. It’s probably no surprise that the world’s longest living nation puts its longevity down to diet, exercise, the ability to help yourself and a mutual help system, otherwise known as a socialising – at least in my book.

Speaking of my book, what do I think the secret of a long healthy life is? I’m barely half way to the age of Japan’s famed centenarians, so I’m hardly an infallible data point. But anyway, I think the secret is to enjoy. Enjoy who you are, what you’re doing, and the company of those you hold dear.

The enjoying who you are bit I think is the most important element. Being comfortable with who you are, what you do well, what you do less well, what you like and what you don’t like. A key part of being comfortable with who you are is being easy on yourself. Give yourself a break. Being down on yourself is almost always counter-productive.

That’s why I always try to have a one word parting gesture when someone’s about to embark on something they’re looking forward to, and, if I’m honest, on something they’re not looking forward to: enjoy.

What did we call life hacks before we called them life hacks? That phrase has only been around for a few years but already I can’t think of what term we used to describe the short-cuts or tricks of getting by in life that we pick up as we pass through the decades of our earthly existence.

Anything that gives us the inside track on a task and saves us time improves our personal productivity, wellbeing and happiness. There are myriad life hacks we use every day without even thinking about them.

I drive a lot of different cars. I travel overseas once a month and hire a car when I’m over there. Whenever I’m picking up my hire car I generally ask the staff member I’m dealing with if the car has blue tooth for hooking up my mobile phone (they almost all do nowadays) and which side of the car the fuel cap is on so I know how to pull into a fuelling station on the correct side to fill up the tank. If I forget, I have to get out of the car and look for it.

I’ve been driving for over 30 years. Imagine my surprise and astonishment, then, when someone told me earlier this year that on almost every car dashboard there is a little icon of a fuel pump and an arrow indicating which side you dispense fuel from. Brilliant! I’d noticed the icon many times but hadn’t registered the significance of the arrow. I’m sure most of you knew this one already, and are tut-tutting to yourself, safe in the knowledge that you’re probably oodles of life hacks ahead of me.

For me, however, it was another life hack acquired. Another micro-improvement.

It’s all too easy, all too often, to feel like we’re on a treadmill, sucked onto the conveyor belt of the myriad bits and pieces we need to do in work and out of work. It’s easy to get frustrated. I know I do.

But then I think about my own personal situation. I’m not one of the infinitesimally small portion that owns half the global assets in the world, not by a long chalk. But I was born into an English-speaking environment, which helps in an increasingly shrinking world.

I was also born in the second half 20th century, in an era of unprecedented technological advancement, in a country with a plentiful supply of food, drink, education and utilities, most of the time.

I live in a first world country in a particularly peaceful and settled corner of the planet, especially when you look at other less fortunate areas.

I have a job, with an income, and a roof over my family’s head that I can afford to maintain and stock every month. I can’t afford to do many of the things I want to do with my home, but then that’s like painting the Forth Bridge.

So does that put me in the top 20% of the top 20% of the top 20% of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants? Possibly. That’s a lot to be thankful and happy for.

I’m fortunate, and should be content. A lot of us are pretty fortunate, especially if we have the time and access to write or read this post.

It’s all relative, really.