Childish ways to maximise happiness

img_7492The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that humans were born with perfect knowledge, but somehow forgot it all at birth. So acquiring knowledge later in life is actually recollecting things we already knew.
I remember thinking this was absurd when I first read it (at school where I appeared to be learning all sorts of things that seemed to be totally new). But, as time goes by, I increasingly think that he has a point.
I am currently working with an Indian media company. In the newsroom I saw a notebook with these words on the outside:

The creative adult is the child who survived.

This got me thinking. The amazing thing about the people who work in that newsroom is how incredibly hard they work. They are a business channel covering the ruckus of the Bombay Stock Exchange in a roller coaster of live output with flashing tickers, graphics and logos. Every moment there is a breaking “flash” as another company releases its results, or a stock price “tanks” or “spikes”. But despite working very long hours and under great pressure, they seem happy – childishly happy –  not that they are in any way childish themselves (they are utterly seasoned professionals). They are childishly happy in the way that a child is happy when totally engrossed in his or her play: demonstrating utter concentration and dedication, and a sense of fun and enjoyment. It’s wonderful to see.

So this article in Time 4 Ways to Live a Happier Life caught my eye when it popped up on my Twitter feed the same week. The author, Eric Barker, quotes the philosopher Nietzsche, echoing Plato’s theme:

A person’s maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child at play.

The article advocates smiling, laughing, touching and teasing as its 4 routes to happiness. These should all be easy to do, “child’s play” as the saying goes, because they are all things that kids do naturally. The article concludes, if you want to be happy:

resolve to approach life like a big kid.

When you think about it, it’s obvious: we instinctively know that it is correct …. and yet somehow we stressed-out adults have managed to forget that simple truth. Perhaps Plato was right after all.

Sporty ways to maximise performance

If you like sports and you’re interested in performance and leadership, here are my favourite 5 books.

41qzhk6f1ql

Matthew Syed shows that no one is born brilliant. We all have the capacity to be the best if we work at it. It will make you think differently about failure: If you have a growth mindset, failure is not something that saps energy and vitality, but provides “an opportunity to learn, develop and adapt.”

 

 

41hvww7xz3l-_sx323_bo1204203200_Ed Smith’s book is the perfect companion of Bounce. However hard we work, shit happens and we have no control over it. But  bad luck can turn to good luck if we adapt to it.   “Successful people, by being open to opportunity and exposing themselves to chance, take new directions that prove more fruitful than anyone could have predicted.” For a vidid demonstration of the effect Luck can have on your life, read his beautiful final chapter.

the_inner_game_of_tennis

Timothy Gallwey’s revolutionary programme to conquer self-doubt and lack of confidence in sport. It taught me to increase my enjoyment in playing tennis, with the inescapable result that I now play it better: an essential lesson in improving performance.

 

9781472103536_z

How do the All Blacks manage to stay so focussed throughout a gruelling rugby match that they are able to win by the narrowest of margins in the final seconds of a game? The answers are all here. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Karen O’Brien for giving me this one.)

 

51k-aykeyil-_sx325_bo1204203200_

If you agree with me that cricket is the perfect metaphor for human life, and you want to know how to be a successful leader in either game, then read this book by the best captain England ever had. How do you motivate mavericks like Ian Botham or Geoffrey Boycott?  (Probably only for the real cricket enthusiast!)

How to put a smile on your face

file000502394427
Photo by Spike on morguefile.com

We know that smiling into a mirror kicks off chemical reactions that make us feel happy. But listening to happy music is more powerful and much more fun. So in honour of #WorldSmileDay, here are my top 5 tunes to make you happy:

 

  1. My post on simple ways to minimise stress recommended Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. So Bob goes straight in at number one.
  2. As Bobby McFerrin wisely says, “In every life, we have some trouble. When you worry, you make it double. Don’t Worry. Be Happy!” Whistle along!
  3. Or actually Sing A Song, particularly one with a base line like this one. “Smile, smile, smile and believe. Sing a song. It’ll make your day.”
  4. OK, While My Guitar Gently Weeps may not sound like the happiest song. But the pure genius of Prince (guitar solo at 3’28) sends shivers up my spine and makes me smile with delight. And the way he chucks his guitar away at the very end is hilariously brilliant. Trust me!
  5. Now we need some dancing too and no happy list would be complete without James Brown’s I Feel Good. If you can match his footwork, you’ll be smiling all day. (With a bonus intro from Ed Sullivan.)

Happy World Smile Day.  [Sorry Pharrell – you’d make the top 10 for sure!]

Magical ways to maximise performance: How Harry Potter can help you conquer your fear

Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling

When your goal is to achieve confident leadership, so the saying goes, there’s no magic wand. You cannot suddenly become a great leader and remain one forever. It’s a journey not a destination. And even if you do have a magic wand, it’s still a challenge. There are no super spells that Harry Potter and his friends can cast to solve their confidence issues. (The books would be pretty dull and short if they did!) But JK Rowling provides them with useful ways to confont their deepest fears. And they provide us muggles with powerful images: magical ways we can use to maximise our performance.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Remus Lupin introduces his defence against the dark arts class to the Boggart. Here is the scene in the excellent film produced by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

A Boggart is a magical creature that works out what your greatest fear is and mimics it.  Professor Lupin sends each student up to face their fear and to learn to conquer it. “The charm that repels a Boggart is simple,” Lupin explains, “yet it requires force of mind.  You see, the thing that really finishes a Boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing.”

So the young wizards are trained to use the Riddikulus charm which (no surprise) makes the Boggart ridiculous and causes them to burst into laughter. And once you laugh at a Boggart –  once you laugh in the face of fear – it’s no longer frightening. So the wizards are trained to follow a very simple two-step process:

  1. Know your Boggart. They identify what their greatest fear is. For Neville Longbottam, it’s Professor Snape.  For Ron Weasley, it’s a giant spider.
  2. Make it ridiculous. They think how to make their greatest fear laughable, and, if they concentrate on that, the Riddikulus charm will make it happen. So Neville’s Snape ends up wearing Neville’s granny’s clothes, and looking extremely funny. Ron’s spider has roller skates on each of its legs and skids around hilariously. Once they’ve laughed at it, the Boggart is no longer scary. Their fear is gone.

Most of this is not magic: Laughter is the best medicine because it releases feel-good chemicals which ease our anxiety and stop our fear – that’s how our physiology works.  So try the same process:

Continue reading “Magical ways to maximise performance: How Harry Potter can help you conquer your fear”