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Why happiness (at work)?

Are we supposed to be happy at work? Aren’t we just paid to get things done? In this lesson we will learn why investing in happiness at work makes solid business sense.


Happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


  • Productivity: Happy employees are productive employees. As per a study by researchers at the University of Warwick, happy people were approximately 12 % more productive than their counterparts. On the other hand, lower happiness was systematically associated with lower productivity (to the tune of unhappy workers being 10 % less productive)
  • Engagement: Surveys by Gallup and other agencies, consistently show that only about 13-30 %of employees are actively engaged while about the same number are actively disengaged. Disengaged employees are likely to be unhappy and create negativity in the workplace, while happier employees are much more likely to be committed to their organizations and go the extra mile. And engaging employees leads to all sorts of positive outcomes like higher customer ratings, increased sales, reduced turnover, lower safety incidents etc.
  • Shareholder value: According to a report by Glassdoor Research, they found a significant positive relation between employee satisfaction and stock market performance of publicly held companies. Smart investors are now monitoring the happiness of employees as a metric of concern and taking that into account while making investment decisions.
  • Health benefits:Happy people live longer, are physically healthier, have stronger immune system and easily rebound from setbacks and are less susceptible to many chronic diseases. This translates into less sick leaves/ absenteeism  or burden on the company due to to illness and corresponding lowering of associated health costs.
  • Creativity and Innovation:Research by Isen, has shown that happier people are more creative. According to Broaden-and-build theory of Barbara Fredrickson, Happiness broadens our attention span thus making it more likely for us to connect disparate ideas and coming up with something novel. With the premium that companies nowadays place on creativity and innovation, prioritizing happiness makes good sense.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration is another skill that is prized in today’s workplace and ample research exists to show that happy individuals collaborate more effectively and are better team players.

We typically think that we will be happy once we achieve that career goal; however it has been shown time and again that success does not lead to happiness always, but happiness always leads to success. We have got the equation wrong for all this time. Now that we do understand the benefits of workplace happiness, we will look in the next lesson for small tips and techniques to become happier @ work.

Happier @ Work

We spend a majority of our waking life (dis) engaged at work. Given the sheer amount of time we spend at work, its imperative that it provides us the fair returns on our most precious investment- our time. While for many of us the return is in monetary terms, ideally it should be in terms of the currency that matters most to us – our own happiness and happiness of those around us.

Bring Back My Happiness

Bring Back My Happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For a majority of people work is drudgery – but it need not be so!  In this mini- course you will learn how you can become happier and more fulfilled at your work, and thereby becoming more productive and successful at the same time. You will learn the art of thriving at the workplace by making small changes to the way you think and act. Nothing grand, just small baby steps.

Its a 10 day mini-course, where each day I will be posting a tiny blog post of about 400-600 words in length and hopefully you would have learned something new. I had made this course for some online courses site, and hence had been restricted by that format. Hope you enjoy.

Collected below are links to all the ten mini-lessons as and when they were /will be published:

  1. Why Happiness (at Work)
  2. Helpful tips to be happier @ work
  3. Creating a positive, gratitude filled culture
  4. Finding meaning in work
  5. Orientation towards work and job crafting
  6. Remaining motivated at work
  7. Optimistic and Positive attitude
  8. Setting powerful goals
  9. Discovering and deploying strengths at work
  10. Leading positively


If you would like to learn more about increasing happiness at the workplace you can contact me for individual 1:1 coaching or for group corporate workshops.


India’s happiness is on a downward roll

I know I am late to the party, but I happened to read the World Happiness Report 2016 update [pdf] issued by the UN today only.

English: "Gross National Happiness is mor...

English: “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product” by Jigme Singye Wangchuck, king of Bhutan. Slogan on a wall in Thimphu’s School of Traditional Arts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hadn’t expected India to have come near the top, since the publication of teh report, it has consistently been near the middle, slightly towards the bottom; but I also hadn’t expected it to be one of the biggest losers when it came to changes in happiness from year to year.

The World Happiness index is constructed by asking a representative sample of people from a nation a single satisfaction with life question (Cantril ladder) and then averaging the responses to arrive at the index for the country. One can answer any number from 0 (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible life) to register one’s satisfaction with life.

India’s score was 4.4 while Denmark aced the happiness test, with its index being 7.4 (a difference of 3 point from India’s).  In a list of 157 countries India came at #118 behind every other country in South Asia including Pakistan!

More worrisome is the fact that when the current data from 2013-2015  was compared with data from 2005-2007, the average happiness level of people in India fell by 0.75 points from205-2207 and this decline made India earn the distinction of being the top 10 losers in the world as far as happiness is concerned!!  So we seem to be on a downhill descent into unhappiness and dystopia.

Another good this the authors of the report started measuring this time was inequality or distribution of happiness among the nations population. To put it simply just like there is inequitable distribution of income, well-being is also inequitably distributed among the population.

In some nations like Bhutan , the spread (standard deviation) of happiness among its population is not too large; its only 1.3 for Bhutan, meaning that with average happiness in Bhutan being 5.2, most of the population’s happiness lies between 3.9 to 6.5.  In India, on the other hand, spread of happiness is 2.1 , a much larger value signifying more inequality in distribution of happiness. Also, to note, this inequality or spread is itself worsening from 2005-2007 to 2013-2015.

Where does this leave us? What does it portend for India? For starters, we can learn from Bhutan which measures Gross National Happiness and has happiness as a cornerstone for all its policies. While its performance on the world happiness index is not outstanding (it features at #84), it is first in world when it comes to lowest inequality of well-being in the population.

It is thus apparent that happiness inequality can be reduced by systemically trying to make happiness a priority . Hope India learns from its neighbor in time and is able to reverse the downward spiral.

The Four C’s of Learning

Today, I came across this concept of the 4 C’s of learning-applicable to both children as well as life long learners.

The 4 C’s that are emphasized are Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration. It is believed that teaching children these skills is critical in the 21st century learning.

I also came across another blog post that advocated adding a 5th C to the above mix: Compassion. And I couldn’t agree more.

To me both Critical thinking and Creativity may be subsumed under one grouping : thinking skills. And thus we can retain the 4 C’s but with Creativity and Critical thinking combined and Compassion added to the mix.

Why do I propose such a state of affairs? Because it maps beautifully to the four domains of leadership model: the HHHV model of Head, Heart, Hands and Voice.

While Critical and Creative thinking map to Head; Compassion maps to Heart; Collaboration can be mapped to Hands and Communication maps directly to Voice.

Finding parallel evidence for a model lends great credence to it and the HHHV model is one such model that has found multiple corroborations.  I am excited that if the 4C’s model of learning is indeed applied in the classrooms, it will lead to the creation of a new breed of leaders. What about you? Are you equally exited?

Trauma, stress and daily hassles: Coping with what works!

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Rumi.


Emotion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily hassles and stress are an unavoidable part of daily living and occasional traumas are also part of the human condition. However, the inevitability of stressful situations need not lead to feelings of despair or hopelessness; we can cope with the stressors by either changing the situation or changing our reaction to it.

The former is called problem-focused coping and involves tools like the SOLVE method to come up with a workable solution to reducing or eliminating the stressful situation. As per the SOLVE method, you State the problem, Outline your goals, List your alternatives, View the consequences and Evaluate your results. Methods like these help address directly the problem at hand.

But sometimes external things are beyond our control and wisdom lies in not only changing what we can but accepting what we cannot and knowing the difference between the two. So we have another set of coping mechanisms called emotion-focused coping. Here we work on how our beliefs and habitual patterns help or hinder in having useful reactions to the situations. We work directly on our emotional reactions to situations and how we can regulate our emotions to better cope with the situations.

Although emotion-focused coping is sometimes seen as having negative consequences and worse outcomes than problem-focused coping, and has also been associated with defense mechanisms, which have got a bad rap, still the utility of emotion-focused coping especially where not much can be done to change external circumstances is immense.

There is a parallel consideration in positive psychology as to what is the best way to achieve and account for happiness- is it all in the mind and we should focus on how we appraise events and react to them and the sort of mindset we have; or should we persist in changing the circumstance of our living? Johnathan Haidt, in his book ‘The happiness hypothesis‘,  concludes, and I concur, that happiness lies in-between – neither wholly outside and not wholly inside, but is co created and interactionist in nature.

In a similar vein, both problem-focused and emotion-focused coping may be required and beneficial, especially in case of major traumas. We can consider daily hassles as daily exercise which tire the muscles and then we need some time to recover  – so also for living with daily hassles we may need quality downtime to rest and recover. However, when one suffers a traumatic injury to the leg , say a ligament rupture or a broken bone, one needs a cast to heal and get back on one’s feet! Extending the analogy after a traumatic event, one needs an ’emotional cast’ where one does not tax one’s coping system too much with daily emotional decisions or regulations and caregivers attending to such a person should allow more leeway for emotional outbursts etc.

As a caregiver, you can also help in one of two ways- either providing instrumental help- for e.g. helping the person directly solve his problem say by providing employment leads after an employee had been downsized;  or you can provide emotional support – just being there and listening to the person being downsized and providing him a shoulder to cry on.

In our work lives as well as our lives outside of work, we will be faced with many stresses, and while its important to take a problem solving approach initially, we should also leverage emotion focused coping mechanisms to our advantage.  A combination of both approaches will provide us with more resilience!

Leaders vis-a-vis Managers

Many theories float around as to what is the difference between Leaders vis-a-vis- Managers; I hope to show some more clarity on the matter by referring to my Hands, Heart, Head, Voice model of leadership.

To recap, the four main functions/ traits of a good leader are elaborated below:

  1. Hand / Executing themes/ Task focus
  2. Heart/ Relationship building themes/People focus
  3. Head/ Strategic thinking themes/ Strategic focus
  4. Voice/ Influencing themes/ Cultural focus

IMHO, the traditional way in which leaders and managers are defined, leaders are predominantly leaders, because of their ability to think strategically or to inspire positive cultural changes; while managers are managers, because of their ability to execute the given tasks and because they can develop individuals and get work done out of them.

Much has been written about the task vs people orientation of managers; similarly its important as leaders to be aware of the strategic vs cultural focus you bring to the table (i.e whether you believe culture eats strategy for breakfast, or the opposite). Each style has its unique advantages, but as you grow from a supervisor to a manager to an executive to a real leader you will probably progress form Hands to Heart to Head to Voice.

Now, lets look at some other dynamics between the Hands, Heart, Head and Voice.

Hand Vs Voice : Here task focus is pitted against a culture focus and the real deal is about having tangible vs intangible results.  Culture is notoriously hard to measure, but any changes are as noticeable and as effective as any bottom-line results.

Voice vs Heart: Here a focus on organizational culture is pitted against a focus on individuals that make the organization and their needs. Issues of alignment are top-of the mind in this dynamics. Another way to think about the dynamics is whether you work one-on-one with individuals to bring out their best; or whether you inspire and motivate and work with, and via, large collectives and groups.

Heart vs Head: Here a focus on people is pitted against a focus on strategy and another way to look at the same is whether as a leader one is human-centric or more business-oriented.

Head vs Hands: Here a focus on strategy/ thinking is pitted against a focus on tasks/ execution. Another way to conceptualize is to think in terms of whether you are making moves that are strategic in nature or that are tactical in nature. How much of your time is spent making strategic decisions and executing strategy vis-a-vis in tactical maneuvers of day to day operations.

Be warned, that as a leader, you need to use all of your Hands, Heart , Head and Voice and a good leader/ manager, though having a predominant style, is flexible enough to rise to the occasion and use other styles as and when the situation so demands.

Its fun to apply this to an org structure, say the C-suite of executives of a tech company: while Hands may be the COO, responsible for day to day operations;  Head will typically be the CTO/CSO, responsible for providing a competitive strategic advantage; Heart will be the CXO, the Chief Experience Officer providing the human-centrism;  while Voice may be the CEO/CIO responsible for culture/ innovation etc.

In a similar vein, when startups form, all these things need to come together: an inspiring idea (Voice/ culture/ innovation) having a viable business model (Hands/ execution), to be executed by a stellar team of like-minded people that has been put together ( Heart/  people) and which has a clear business plan ( Head/ strategy.

While the prevailing wisdom is that the ‘idea’ guy should not be the CEO (makes for a ‘weak CEO’) , I think if CEO is to be the leader that everyone is to look at, they should be the ones to influence and inspire the employees, and need to have good Voice abilities.  What do you think? Do let me know via comments!

For developing non-cognitive skills of Employees, focus on their Managers!

A recent article by Paul Tough, focuses on how one can increase the non-cognitive skills of students. He shows, how, the evidence increasingly points, that we cannot ‘teach’ these skills, but by creating the right environmental conditions and via real-world interactions, these somehow develop.

These non-cognitive skills are skills like grit, resilience, self-control and perseverance; and these have been shown to have differential and significant impact, over and above cognitive factors, on academic performance and outcomes like the CGPA.

The article starts with documenting the well-known finding that (chronic) stress in early childhood is associated with worse outcomes later in life. It then goes on to document another finding, that irrespective of whether the early childhood is stressful (barring aside extreme adversity) or not, if the child-parent interaction is full of warmth and supportive and consistent, then it leads to development of  positive non-cognitive skills like attention and concentration.

For children who grow up without significant experiences of adversity, the skill-development process leading up to kindergarten generally works the way it’s supposed to: Calm, consistent, responsive interactions in infancy with parents and other caregivers create neural connections that lay the foundation for a healthy array of attention and concentration skills. Just as early stress sends signals to the nervous system to maintain constant vigilance and prepare for a lifetime of trouble, early warmth and responsiveness send the opposite signals: You’re safe; life is going to be fine. Let down your guard; the people around you will protect you and provide for you. Be curious about the world; it’s full of fascinating surprises. These messages trigger adaptations in children’s brains that allow them to slow down and consider problems and decisions more carefully, to focus their attention for longer periods, and to more willingly trade immediate gratification for promises of long-term benefits.

Now, as per one conceptualization, its easy to draw a parallel between a child-parent relation and a employee-manager relation; many of us look at our bosses as parental authority figures and look towards them for direction and guidance. If we extend the analogy, its easy to see why the supportive, warm, caring and consistent behavior of managers towards their employee may be an important variable that results in the employees exhibiting behaviors that utilizes and is focused around using non-cognitive skills.

Also important is the emotional intelligence of the manager- how self-aware the manager is and how capable of self-regulation he or she is. The analogy with parent-child emotional interaction and modelling is presented below:

A second crucial role that parents play early on is as external regulators of their children’s stress. When parents behave harshly or unpredictably—especially at moments when their children are upset—the children are less likely over time to develop the ability to manage strong emotions and respond effectively to stressful situations. By contrast, when a child’s parents respond to her jangled emotions in a sensitive and measured way, she is more likely to learn that she herself has the capacity to cope with her feelings, even intense and unpleasant ones.

So, if one wants to have employees that can focus, self-regulate, do not cut corners in service of short term goals and are creative/ innovative, then along with some behavioral raining in these aspects, a fruitful avenue would be focusing on the EI and attitudes of their managers so that they act in right way towards their employees, and create the right conditions for development and display of non-cognitive skills.

The article then goes on to discuss how neither punishments nor incentives work to decrease the behavior problems or to increase the academic outcomes. Translated to the workplace, carrots and sticks don’t work, neither for controlling dis-engagement nor for increasing performance. One striking indictment of incentives follows:

And yet in almost every case, Fryer’s incentive programs have had no effect. From 2007 to 2009, Fryer distributed a total of $9.4 million in cash incentives to 27,000 students, to promote book reading in Dallas, to raise test scores in New York, and to improve course grades in Chicago —all with no effect. “The impact of financial incentives on student achievement,” Fryer reported, “is statistically 0 in each city.” In the 2010–11 school year, he gave cash incentives to fifth-grade students in 25 low-performing public schools in Houston, and to their parents and teachers, with the intent of increasing the time they spent on math homework and improving their scores on standardized math tests. The students performed the tasks necessary to get paid, but their average math scores at the end of eight months hadn’t changed at all. When Fryer looked at their reading scores, he found that they actually went down.

What does work instead, is creating the conditions for tapping into intrinsic motivation: and one way to do so is by providing employees/ students a sense of autonomy, mastery experiences and a sense of belonging/ relatedness. This is based in the rich literature around self-determination theory by Deci and Ryan.

But how does this relate to the non-cognitive abilities? In educational settings, Jackson, an economist, tried to measure the non-cognitive ability of students and also correlate to teacher’s effectiveness and came up with striking insights.

Jackson had access to students’ scores on the statewide standardized test, and he used that as a rough measure of their cognitive ability. This is the number that education officials generally look at when trying to assess teachers’ impact. But then Jackson did something new. He created a proxy measure for students’ noncognitive ability, using just four pieces of existing administrative data: attendance, suspensions, on-time grade progression, and overall GPA. Jackson’s new index measured, in a fairly crude way, how engaged students were in school—whether they showed up, whether they misbehaved, and how hard they worked in their classes. Jackson found that this simple noncognitive proxy was, remarkably, a better predictor than students’ test scores of whether the students would go on to attend college, a better predictor of adult wages, and a better predictor of future arrests.

An analogy to workplace would be productivity as the cognitive skills; and absenteeism, layoffs, on-time promotions and performance ratings as a proxy measure for non-cognitive abilities. And what did he find?

Jackson’s proxy measure allowed him to do some intriguing analysis of teachers’ effectiveness. He subjected every ninth-grade English and algebra teacher in North Carolina to what economists call a value-added assessment. First he calculated whether and how being a student in a particular teacher’s class affected that student’s standardized-test score. Then, separately, he calculated the effect that teachers had on their students’ noncognitive proxy measure: on their attendance, suspensions, timely progression from one grade to the next, and overall GPA.

Jackson found that some teachers were reliably able to raise their students’ standardized-test scores year after year. These are the teachers, in every teacher-evaluation system in the country, who are the most valued and most rewarded. But he also found that there was another distinct cohort of teachers who were reliably able to raise their students’ performance on his noncognitive measure. If you were assigned to the class of a teacher in this cohort, you were more likely to show up to school, more likely to avoid suspension, more likely to move on to the next grade. And your overall GPA went up—not just your grades in that particular teacher’s class, but your grades in your other classes, too.

Jackson found that these two groups of successful teachers did not necessarily overlap much; in every school, it seemed, there were certain teachers who were especially good at developing cognitive skills in their students and other teachers who excelled at developing noncognitive skills. But the teachers in the second cohort were not being rewarded for their success with their students—indeed, it seemed likely that no one but Jackson even realized that they were successful. And yet those teachers, according to Jackson’s calculations, were doing more to get their students to college and raise their future wages than were the much-celebrated teachers who boosted students’ test scores.

Now this is huge! It correlates with the parallel  claim I have been making that most of the managers are basically either task-oriented or people-oriented.  Those who are task oriented, are like the teachers who can increase the cognitive ability of students, and are able to drive productivity in their teams; the other set of managers, who are more people-oriented, are like teachers that create the conditions that lead to more non-cognitive abilities in their students, and are able to truly engage employees and bring out their best.

And this they do by creating the right conditions:

The environment those teachers created in the classroom, and the messages that environment conveyed, motivated students to start making better decisions—to show up to class, to persevere longer at difficult tasks, and to deal more resiliently with the countless small-scale setbacks and frustrations that make up the typical student’s school day. And those decisions improved their lives in meaningful ways. Did the students learn new skills that enabled them to behave differently? Maybe. Or maybe what we are choosing to call “skills” in this case are really just new ways of thinking about the world or about themselves—a new set of attitudes or beliefs that somehow unleash a new way of behaving.

And what are these new set of attitudes or beliefs:

Farrington has distilled this voluminous mind-set research into four key beliefs that, when embraced by students, seem to contribute most significantly to their tendency to persevere in the classroom:

1. I belong in this academic community.

2. My ability and competence grow with my effort.

3. I can succeed at this.

4. This work has value for me.

If students hold these beliefs in mind as they are sitting in math class, Farrington concludes, they are more likely to persevere through the challenges and failures they encounter there. And if they don’t, they are more likely to give up at the first sign of trouble.

The four factors are related to belongingness (where managers can play a big role), mastery experiences and growth opportunities, for creating self-efficacy and feelings of competence(again under manager’s control); and ensuring the work is purposeful and not meaningless (where again managers can play a big role).

Its about time, managers lived up-to their responsibilities, and organizations reward the people-oriented managers too, who are creating the conditions for their employees to grow and flourish. The non-cognitive skills of employees can be developed but via the managers and hence its important to create the right culture where people oriented managers are also rewarded and recognized.

Maximizing Happiness: to each his own!

Happiness means different things to different people, but happiness or well-being researchers have typically broken down happiness into three components:

  1. Absence of negative emotions
  2. Presence of positive emotions
  3. Life satisfaction
Jeff Woloson in Thailand. The birds atop Jeff'...

Jeff Woloson in Thailand. The birds atop Jeff’s head and left arm are Brahminy Kites; the larger bird on his right arm is a young White-bellied Sea-eagle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently extended this framework to include life outlook as an integral component of happiness and you can read more about the same at my The Mouse Trap blog here.

To me, this break-up of well-being into negative emotions, positive emotions and life satisfaction seems incomplete and I propose adding another component to the mix: life outlook.

Life outlook, is how excited you are about the possibilities of the future, and in your ability to make your dreams come true; it is future oriented, unlike life satisfaction which is past oriented; though like life satisfaction, I believe, it can be reliably measured by self-report method. This involves an attitude of looking forward to whatever life has to offer; to be truly considered ‘happy’ one should be hopeful and optimistic, rather than resigned or pessimistic.

So well-being= ‘presence of +ve emotions’ + ‘lack of -ve emotions’ + ‘life satisfaction’ + ‘+ve life outlook’

Life satisfaction is typically measured using Satisfaction with Life scale; the absence of positive and negative emotions by PANAS scale. I would suggest to know real well-being of a person we also need to measure Life Outlook and this can be tentatively done by using the Adult Hope scale, although to be frank we probably need a new measure.

We control what we measure and to me it is apparent that if we want to control our happiness i.e. maximize it we also need to be able to measure its components and see improvements.

What is interesting is that each type of happiness is associated with a different type of self, and based on the properties of these selves, different method of increasing happiness apply to different selves.

Take minimizing negative/unhelpful emotions, this is associated with Materialistic self and you could possibly reduce discomfort by gaining material possessions. Beyond a certain point more possessions or assets typically lead to increasing hedonistic pleasure, but no gain in real happiness. Conversely having negative possessions or liabilities is likely to make you unhappy. So buy that new iPhone but not at the cost of a materialistic liability like a recurring EMI.

Or take maximizing positive/ helpful emotions that are related to the experiencing self, and by having intense ‘in the moment’ experiences you could possibly feel euphoric joy. An experiential purchase like a vacation or attending a concert may lead to real joyful experience. If you were focused on this type of happiness you are better off maximizing positive experiences in your life; and reducing the negative experiences or hassles. If planning and executing for that vacation is more of a hassle, and if even on the vacation, you can’t live in the moment, then perhaps you are better off not taking that vacation:)

Similarly, it has been found that life satisfaction is related to income/wealth and I associate it with the Remembering self. To me, it is all about building a corpus(typically of wealth/ status, but at times of experiences) about which you could reflect back and feel good about yourself. It is also related to making use of past opportunities and if one doesn’t dare greatly then one is doomed to live with regret. Opportunity cost is one construct relevant to this. To maximize this sort of happiness, one can satisfy rather than maximize, while making decisions, so that regret is lowest.

Lastly, we have life outlook that I relate to the Anticipatory self or the Homo Prospectus. As I came up with the construct idea last night only, not much research has apparently happened on this:-) and we don’t know with what it correlates. I believe investing in yourself, by say investing into your psychological resources like building confidence and resilience, may be one way of maximizing this sort of happiness. To have SMART and WISE goals for oneself seems like another factor that may lead to being more hopeful about life; on the other hand not having any goals/ dreams could lead to an attitude of resignation and lead to living lives of quiet desperation. So to maximize this type of happiness perhaps its important to have the right types of goals: WISE, intrinsic and other-oriented.

All happiness are created equal, but some happiness are created more equal than the others. Its best to figure out which type of happiness makes most sense to you and then to go ahead and maximize that kind of happiness. Here is wishing you loads of happiness as you venture forth on that path. Happy flourishing!

What if time was not a constraint?

Some of you may be familiar with this speech by Alan Watts where he discusses ‘What if money was no object?’

The idea is to get people thinking about what they are really passionate about, and would love to do, and questions such as these are many times used, by coaches like me, to make our clients explore such options and dream big.

However, as a coach, we also come across clients who are not able to make out time for healthy habits like exercise, meditation etc and often times the excuse for not making any positive changes is the lack of time.

Now, consider the adage that time is money. Putting the above two thoughts together, one can pose a question as to what would happen if time was not a constraint. Suppose you got double the amount of time in a day (48 hrs), what would change; which happy habits will you eke out time for? Will you spend more time with your family? And if you plan to spend, say 4 hrs with family, in a 48 hr day; can you at least keep aside for the family 2 hrs in a 24 hr day?  Thought experiments like these can be powerful levers for change.

I developed this line of thinking, when I came across a post yesterday, on Facebook by Scott Barry Kaufman (whose website just got a fabulous new design), where he was grappling with a thought experiment at 1 am in the night: what if we lived 1000 yrs; at the deathbed would we say life flew too fast, or instead that it felt like forever.

While I have my own take on what we might say on the deathbed in that condition, this also prompted me to ask a different, but related more powerful question. What if instead of asking our clients of ‘how they would re-prioritize their life if they had cancer and had only 6 months to live‘ we in addition also asked ‘ What would you really do, if time was no constraint and you were to live for a 1000 years’. Would you invest more in relationships, would you slow down your hyper career focus, or would you invest more into things that only bear fruit with a lot of investment like caring for a child?

Each person will have a different take and that would provide them with additional insight into what they want to do in life and what their real priorities are.  By playing around with their time horizons (cancer/ 1000 years) as well as making them sensitive to their daily experience of time (48 hrs vs 24 hrs) one can trigger powerful insights, in the client.

So what are you waiting for? Think about how your day will change if there were 48 hrs in it and also how your life priorities will change if you were to live 1000 years; and, if you feel like, leave, a line or two, in the comments regarding the same. Maybe this little exercise can lead to a real transformative insight.

Exploring what Matters in Life


How many of us can clearly articulate what we want from life? How many of us know how to be happy and have peace of mind? Do we appreciate the value of relationships and want to figure out how to treat others well? Do we want to create a happier workplace, a happier community and a happier world, but are seeking answers as to how?

If you, like me, have been puzzled by such questions, look no further. Action for Happiness has been running the ‘Exploring what Matters’ course in the UK, which enables you to ponder these questions along with like-minded people. And till now the course was only available in UK.

But now, for the first time the, course is also being offered in Pune/ India and here is your opportunity to take part in this course and explore issues of consequence.

The course will be co-facilitated by me and Manish Hatwlane of My Zen Path and is an eight week course. It will run from 25 June 2016 to 13 August 2016 on Saturdays from 5:30 pm to 7:30 Pm IST.  You can register for the course here.

The course is backed by the Dalai Lama, who is the patron of Action for Happiness. It has received rave reviews, when offered in UK, and we hope to replicate the magic here.

From the past runs and pilot studies of this course, it has been shown, that course participants are happier, more compassionate, have greater social trust and are mentally healthier, post participation in this course. The course participation involves a pre and post survey as per which life satisfaction, mental well-being, compassion and social trust are assessed at both times; and it has been found that these positive qualities increase on an average by 8 to 18 %.

I am looking forward to learning from other course participants, and would encourage you to do the same, in case you are based out of Pune.