The Big Idea
What does happiness have to do with productivity? Everything.
Questions I Answer
- How does my happiness affect my productivity?
- How can I express my emotions better?
- How can I find more happiness?
- What do I need to do to feel productive and happy?
Actions to Take
- Watch the “How To Quiet Your Inner Critic” video on my YouTube channel
- Think of steps you can take that might help you feel a little bit better about yourself. Shift your mindset & expectations to create a life that allows happiness to thrive.
Key Topics in the Show
Choosing happiness & the realistic choices you can start making to cultivate happiness
Showing up to your emotions so that you can bring happiness into your everyday life
Being happy and being comfortable: What’s the difference?
Four mindset shifts you can start making today
Welcome to season seven of Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press, a podcast focused on using productivity not just to get more done but to accomplish what’s most important. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on cultivating happiness through the power of productivity.
To get her free checklist, 5 Minutes to Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLPress.com/podcast. Now here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press and this is episode 79. Today is the first episode of season seven which is all about cultivating happiness through productivity. Now, I know you might ask, “What does happiness have to do with productivity?” And I would say, “Everything.” After all, what’s the goal of productivity? Is it really to do more, to cram more things into our hectic days, or is it to find ways to create space, to focus our time, our energy, and our effort into what really matters most, the result of which is happiness, right?
Now, I came up with the idea for this season after reading the result of our surveys where I asked so many of you for ideas of what you wanted me to talk about on my YouTube channel. I found that a lot of your questions centered at their core around the idea of happiness. So we’ll be exploring all kinds of topics including creating space for relationships, savoring time, scheduling the unschedulable, and more. I’m really excited to kick off this season with today’s topic which is about choosing happiness.
I believe one of the first things we really need to learn when we’re talking about happiness is how we can choose to be happy. We’re going to talk about what this really means and what realistic choices you can start making today to cultivate happiness. I know there are times that happiness doesn’t really feel like a choice, so we’re going to be talking a little bit about that, too. You see, you cultivate your perception of reality through a series of choices that you make to develop your mindset and your lifestyle. The idea that happiness is a choice is sometimes rejected because it’s impossible to choose your feelings. After all, we feel how we feel. But what we really mean when we say that happiness is a choice is actually the choice to assume responsibility for your life and the day to day decisions that bring about your wellbeing and therefore, the feelings you’re experiencing.
There are times, especially if we’re experiencing depression, that we truly want to be happy and just can’t. I’m not negating that. I’m simply wanting to open our eyes to the things we can choose to help bring about happiness in our everyday lives. For example, as a health example, you make the choice to binge on unhealthy food and television instead of doing something that would make you feel good like talking a walk or reading a book. It’s about choices. What we’re not talking about here is trying to be happy.
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Paradoxically, trying too hard to be happy backfires and makes us feel even more unhappy. Instead, we need to do what Susan David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, calls showing up to your emotions. She says when people are very unhappy and are focused on thinking positive, what it can actually lead them to do is then push difficult thoughts and emotions aside, and we don’t really want to do that. Showing up means to stop any struggle you have within yourself about whether you should or shouldn’t feel something or should or shouldn’t think something, or whether something is a bad thought or a good thought when in reality, it’s just a thought.
We have to stop living a life defined by shouldas and couldas. We need to live the life that we’ve got. Instead of trying to think positively when an unpleasant emotion pops up, we need to choose to explore that feeling. Maybe you’re frustrated with your spouse, explore why. When you do that, you can find that perhaps you’re upset because they didn’t give you credit for all the chores you got done while they were out, and this can signal that fairness is an important value for you. This information is really important because if you had instead pushed that feeling aside and tried to think positively, you wouldn’t have found that critical piece of information about yourself and that will help you do better in adapting your life.
This example could lead to a conversation with your spouse. “Hey, I know you appreciate it when I do chores while you’re gone and I don’t mind doing them, but it’s nice to hear that you appreciate what I’ve done. Just like I tell you how I appreciate the work that you’ve done.” Then you have to actually do that. Model the behavior you want to receive. You want appreciation, express appreciation. It all circles back. In the long term, this mutual respect ends up leading to a stronger and more caring relationship which was gained through recognizing and understanding a negative emotion instead of just pushing it aside. We choose the ways that we experience life subconsciously and consciously, and it’s good to explore your emotions, the positive ones and the negative ones.
Now, I realize there are times when happiness just really honestly does not feel like a choice at all, and there could be several reasons why you may feel this way. You maybe are convinced that nothing good can come easily. If you want good in your life, you have to suffer for it. A lot of people believe this. Truly though, this is just the default way of thinking in duality. When we identify what we want, we also identify what we don’t want. So when we identify what makes us happy, we also subconsciously identify what doesn’t make us happy. We can choose to acknowledge the opposite of our happiness without entertaining it to the point of believing it. We don’t really have to suffer to be happy. Or maybe you just don’t want to deal with what you don’t feel was your fault in the first place. Life dealt you a bad hand and life should fix it.
We often look for rational reasons why bad things happen, and when we don’t find one, we can begin to believe there’s just nothing we can do about it. While it’s true we can’t prepare ahead of time for everything, there are things we can do to really take these negative experiences and deal with it. There’s always something we can do to return to a more positive state of mind. Maybe you believe something or someone else will save you. Money, love, romance, a new job, a new outfit, a new day. Listen, anything, right? It’s easier to dismiss a situation at hand and just hope that
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anything else will make us happier, but this just ends up wasting our time on wishing while we miss out on all the good opportunities that come with the not so good.
You might actually believe that pain is your safety. If you think of yourself as a realistic person and you plan for every possible bad outcome, you’ll never be surprised by it and you’ll always stay safe. For some reason, we think that being aware of every possible way that we’re less than is being self-aware when actually, it’s assuming that our insecurities are what others think of us and adopting those insecurities as truth. No amount of preparation can actually prepare us for true suffering. The preparation can rob us of the happiness that we’re experiencing in the current moment. You might even feel afraid that you’re not going to continue to grow. If you accept your life as it is, you’ll be stuck where you are and you’ll never evolve.
There’s a big difference between happiness and being comfortable. In reality, we never stop growing or changing. Change is the one constant in our lives, and accepting who we are and how we are doesn’t really stop change. It actually makes it easier. When we feel accepted, we’re more likely to make choices out of love and desire rather than fear and shame or it might just be that you don’t realize that just because you choose happiness doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It’s okay to choose other emotions. You can choose to feel grief to process loss or sadness if something didn’t work out the way you wanted. You can have all the feelings you want to feel, but the point is to realize we can shift our thoughts and therefore our emotions to process what we experience rather than stuffing it down and suffering. It’s okay to feel the way that we feel.
Here’s the thing, when we believe these happiness truths about ourselves, we’re keeping ourselves truly from enjoying life, from living the life we want to live and exploring and enjoying the moment, living in the present and being part of that journey. Happiness doesn’t just happen to you. You have the power to set yourself on the course towards a happier life through small changes in your behavior, your surroundings, and your relationships.
I’ve got four easy choices and mindset shifts that you can start making today in all the different areas of your life, work, home, and personal. I think all of these are really easy to implement, and I want to go through them today but we’ll be exploring them even more throughout the season. The first one is you have to stop believing that happiness is just around the corner. This is that idea that I’ll be happy when X happens, when I lose 10 pounds, when I get a promotion at work, when I find my ideal partner, when I make more money. None of these are really the secret to happiness. Let’s explore one of these just for the sake of argument.
One of the most popular ones is the idea that when I make more money, I will be happier. When I’m making more money in my job, life will be easier, therefore, I’m going to be a lot happier. While studies actually show that outside of poverty, having more money doesn’t actually make us happier. Typically, when we buy the things we want, we get excited. We have this small burst of happiness, and then we start thinking about the next thing we want to buy. You could try spending your money instead on experiences which are actually shown to make you happier or you could use this idea of having more money to buy you time.
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Spending money on convenience items and time saving experiences can lower stress and make you happier. This could include a meal service, hiring household help, paying someone to go help run errands. If you could afford to give yourself the gift of time, that could be a convenient way to make a happier life. But it’s not the money itself, it’s not the ideal partner, it’s not the 10 pounds, it’s how you use that. When you lose the 10 pounds, how is that going to make you happier? Maybe it’s because you go and you ride your bike more often and you’re spending more time outdoors. It can be a vehicle for happiness, but it’s not the end destination. Happiness does not lie around the bend.
The second choice you can make is to shift your perspective of your current situation. We need to practice optimism because it’s part genetic and part learned. You can learn to be optimistic even if you default to pessimism. This doesn’t mean ignoring reality by any stretch. More often, it means seeing life as a challenge. For example, instead of thinking, “I can’t believe I lost my job. I’ll never recover from this,” you could say, “This is going to be hard, but I can take time to rethink my life goals and find a job that really makes me happy.”
Optimism is infectious, and so is pessimism. So make it a point to spend time with other people who are optimistic, spending time with happy people who make you happy. Social connection is one of the greatest predictors of happiness. Spending time with those who are happy makes us happier and in turn makes others around us happier. It’s a never ending cycle. You can also shift the way you look at things. For example, your job. Try to find meaning in the work that you do. That can really help you feel a little bit happier with what you’re doing on a daily basis. Work can really play an important role in our happiness. It’s where we spend the majority of our time. So it’s really important we don’t hate it.
Yale researchers studied custodians at a hospital and found that they didn’t see their jobs as lowly or boring. They saw it as providing comfort to patients, that they were helping families find their way around the hospital and providing a clean, pleasant environment for doctors and nurses to do their best work and to allow patients to heal. Think about how they shifted their mindset of how they feel about their jobs. They could’ve looked at it as we’re just picking up trash and cleaning toilets and instead, that work has a lot of meaning. It really caused a lot of happiness in other people’s lives. That can make a difference in how you feel getting up, putting your feet on the floor, and going into work every Monday.
You have to try to rewrite your story. Think about your life in a different way. One of the ways you can do that is to spend 15 minutes either journaling freely each morning or focusing on one particular challenge and writing and rewriting that story for yourself. Try looking at it from a neutral observer’s viewpoint and consider what encouragement you might give if it was a friend in this situation going through the same thing. Numerous studies show that writing and then rewriting your story can take you from a negative mindset to a positive view of life, and I think that is a really big change there, looking at your own life from a very different viewpoint.
Choice number three is to be kind to yourself and to others. Being kind to yourself and to others is one of the greatest steps you can take to becoming happier. A lot of times, we’re not really very kind to ourselves. That inner critic in our head is
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really loud, really obnoxious, and likes to boss us about. I recently shared a video on my YouTube channel about how to quiet your inner critic. So if you struggle with that really loud negative voice in your head, it’s time to silence it. You may find that video helpful in keeping that in check.
We have to really watch what we’re saying to ourselves. How are we speaking to ourselves? Are we speaking to ourselves in kind ways or are we really being a little bit abusive to ourselves? I want you to really think about that because we would never treat others the way we treat ourselves inside of our heads, and that’s because we’re always thinking of others. Give to others, that helps with your happiness. We’ve all heard of karma. What you put out into the world comes right back to you. As a matter of fact, just thinking about being generous triggers a happiness reaction in our brains. Try to be generous with your time, with your money, and even with your resources like your skills and your knowledge. Volunteering has been linked with health benefits like lowering your blood pressure and decreasing mortality rates. There’s a really strong link between giving and happiness. Volunteering is a very easy way to give yourself to others and to give that gift of time.
I want to encourage you too though to give yourself that gift of time and that gift of space. One of the easiest things you can do for you is to practice a little bit of controlled breathing for a few minutes. When you find yourself feeling negative or you find yourself in a situation where there doesn’t seem to be a choice, take a deep breath and a couple of controlled breaths and really think it through. Try to look at things from a different perspective and quiet that inner critic inside of our heads. This goes along perfectly with choice number four.
Create a sanctuary for yourself. This means making yourself a little bit of space, a physical space, that feels free of clutter and disorganization because that can cause stress. Choose items that you love and items that are useful, and then really start to get rid of the rest. When we take care of ourselves and we take care of the areas we live in, we tend to be happier and more optimistic and we have less depression and anxiety. We have to remember that self-care isn’t selfish.
Think of steps you could take that might help you feel a little bit better about yourself. Where you live has an effect on your overall happiness, and that doesn’t mean you have to live in a huge building or a beautiful space. It just means creating a space that’s meaningful for you, and that could just be having a few pictures up of things that make you happy or having a few mementos from your family or memories from a vacation or a trip. Think about little things you can do for yourself to create a space that feels good for you.
One of the easiest things you can do is spend a little bit of time outdoors. Spending time in nature and especially in sunlight has been proven to really increase happiness. Taking a walk on quiet tree lined paths can improve mental health and even physical changes in the brain. If you can’t get outside, let’s say you have an office job where you’re indoors all day long, look for a little space that’s got a little bit of natural lighting in the room because just spending a little bit of time in the sun is great for your mood. Just creating a little bit of space for you really can make a difference. Making a sanctuary that feels like it is yours can really boost your happiness.
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This idea that we’ve been talking about, this idea of choosing happiness is really rooted in mindfulness. The goal is just to be rather than trying to be happy because your life is going to have good and bad emotions. There’s no way around it. We need the bad emotions as much as we need the good ones. They both play a really important role in who we are. You can’t just focus on being happy and expect to have a well-rounded life. It’s all about shifting mindsets and expectations and creating a life to allow happiness to thrive, and that is what we’re going to be talking about all season long.
I’m really excited about this season because I think we have some really interesting topics we’re going to be exploring and tying in productivity, how we can streamline, how we can create systems to that happiness. I think that’s really going to be exciting to explore. Next week, we are going to be digging even deeper in how to shift your perspective and find happiness. A lot of times, we really have to get outside of ourselves to really see happiness and opportunities to really thrive.
On YouTube this week, I’m sharing some proven exercises from happiness expert Shawn Achor on what you can do to boost happiness. These are really, really easy exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere. I’m really excited to share them with you because I have found they make a big difference in my own life. You can watch that video at inkWELLpress.com/youtube and that’ll bring you straight to my YouTube channel.
I would love for you to leave me a five star review if you like this idea of cultivating happiness through productivity. Even better, leave me a review. I read reviews every single week, so I love to see what you’re enjoying on the podcast and what you’d like to see in future episodes. So feel free to leave me a note. If you don’t know how to leave a review or leave a rating, just go to inkWELLpress.com/ ratethepodcast. All right, until next time. Have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/group.