The ‘You decide’ blog rebuttal: Your 40% solution to happiness.

Following on from my last blog, ‘You decide’, a few comments enquired into how to ‘put on’ your mood as well as a fair amount of scepticism from others on the simplification of the message. So, in response I thought I would share some information by Sonja Lyubomirsky, a prominent researcher who has spent the last 18 years studying human happiness, making significant personal contributions to this science. Her research has most notably focused on the architecture of sustainable happiness.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, we are all born with a baseline of happiness, a happiness ‘set point’ to which we return to after significant positive or negative events. It is estimated that this set point accounts for about 50 per cent of differences between people’s levels of happiness. 

A further 10 per cent of happiness is accounted for by circumstance. This sounds initially counterintuitive as most people believe that circumstances account for a much higher percentage. However, if we understand the process of ‘hedonic adaptation’ (an observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes), also know as the hedonic treadmill, we can better understand the fact that life circumstances, like wealth and health, only have a short-term and limited influence on happiness… See the picture example below.

This leaves us with 40%. We have the power to control 40% of our happiness through behaviour and actions such as ‘intentional activities’. Our ability to become happier is therefore dependent on the management of our inner world i.e. our emotions mind, and the actions that consequently follow on from these. Lyubomirsky similarly stresses the importance of sustained and committed effort. If we consider the creation of happiness a worthwhile goal, we need to invest the same amount of effort required when undertaking any other perceived worthwhile endeavour in life.

The challenge for all of us lies in transforming the happiness ‘activity’ into a habit so that it becomes second nature, possibly even a ritual. Effort and commitment are required in the beginning but this effort gradually disparate as it becomes a natural and integral part of our life. 

Thus the key to happiness lies not in changing our genetic makeup (which is impossible) and not in changing our circumstances i.e. seeking wealth or attractiveness or better colleagues, (which is usually impractical), but in our daily intentional activities.

Although it’s not possible for me to tell you what intentional activities will give you happiness, in my next blog I will share the FISH! Philosophy, a language to help guide you to discover how you can create a culture and workplace that encourages people to flourish and increase productivity… But in the meantime the journey is yours to discover. 

Information cited from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book ‘The How Of Happiness’.


You decide

How do you start your day? Is each morning a struggle to rouse yourself from slumber or do you wake each day excited, invigorated and happy? The emotional state you create will have an affect on everything else going on in and around you. If you look for negativity, guess what? You will be sure to find it. 

If we control our consciousness we therefore control our thoughts, the proceeding element of control would be that of our mood. I fully appreciate the simplicity of this presupposition, but consider this… Reality is nothing more than a collection of thoughts, or more eloquently put by Virchow in 1845 ‘Life itself is but the expression of a sum of phenomena’. Given that reality is created out of thoughts, and we all feel a certain way about our chosen reality, it becomes important for us to understand the link between thoughts and feelings; that is the expression of our mood.

It is our choice to empower ourselves to respond to challenges and problems in a constructive and positive way. Can we celebrate success, sit back and witness the energy this can bring to, not just the workplace, but also our home lives? When we get dressed every morning, can we ‘put on’ our mood as well? There is so much we can celebrate everyday, it is just a question of where we invest our energy? 

Having read this short blog you now have two choices: 1. Ignore / dismiss it or 2. Share it with people you care about. Guess what choice I made? Just like developing any skill it takes practise and it is a ‘choice’. 

Summoning the strength to do it for yourself can be tough, so I invite you to do it for someone else. To quote the FISH! PHILOSOPHY; Moods and attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?

Information cited from the FISH! PHILOSOPHY, and Harley Therapy CBT Behavioural Counselling.

How do you measure your life? Part 2.


“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~ Socrates

Thank you to those who took the time to answer my question in part 1 of this blog, I believe that irrespective of what gives your life meaning, the fact that you have a meaning gives you purpose… a why… which will in turn allow you to thrive and survive. Creating fulfillment, meaning, satisfaction and freedom in your life opens the door to having purpose. Those who answered my question all had a why, be it faith, family or self growth, things that if all else were stripped away, are the things that will continue to sustain your spirit and enrich you.

There’s no reason for us to be contemplating the significance of our lives whilst sitting on our couches watching the TV. Rather, we should be discovering what feels important to us. As subjective as this topic is, what gives our lives meaning is what meaning we place on our experiences. It can be easy to run through the maze of life without pausing to think of its meaning. Does what I’m doing matter? More importantly, does it matter to me? If you feel that what you’re doing has real purpose and meaning it can have a real tangible and positive impact on your life.

German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why can endure any how.’ Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you thus creating a life you enjoy living versus merely surviving day to day. Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.

Information cited from the Financial Philosopher, The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky and Viktor E. Frankl’s book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.

How do you measure your life? Part 1.

Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) is perhaps best known for his profoundly inspiring book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.

In this book he poignantly describes his experience in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. One of his key observations was that those prisoners who gave up on life, who had lost all hope for a future, were inevitably the first to die. 

Frankl kept alive by maintaining hope, he dreamt of the prospect of seeing his wife again and indulged in ambitions of lecturing on the psychological lessons learnt from his Auschwitz experience after the war. Engaging with vivid mental imagery allowed him to maintain his focus and motivation to survive, giving him the meaning and purpose required to bravely ‘soldier’ on.

Horrific as his experience was, it reinforced what was already one of his key ideas: Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.  

Frankl proposed that the greatest task for any person is to find meaning in their life.  

Reading about Frankl’s story made me consider; what gives my life meaning? This is my invitation to those reading, how do you measure your life? It would be great to hear and read about what gives your life meaning – so readers… can you think of up to 3 things that gives your life meaning?

Information cited from the Financial Philosopher and Viktor E. Frankl’s book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.

What we allow is what will continue. Do you enable?

One of our noblest human instincts is our desire to help others, especially those who mean the most to us. Parents want to help their children succeed in school, spouses want to help each other to solve their loved ones problems, work colleagues want to help each other to develop professionally and friends want to give advice with personal relationship issues. Unfortunately though, this well-meant impulse can sometimes have a negative affect.

Do we enable those people we seek to help when we should be empowering them. When people aren’t challenged to do as much as they possibly can to help themselves, they learn to constantly look for answers, remedies, solutions and fixes outside of themselves. They begin to feel powerless, useless, incapable and needy. Sadly, the more they feel that way, the more they attract circumstances that prove them right. The more they attract those negative circumstances, the worse they feel. The worse they feel, the worse it gets. And so this cycle continues…

This can be witnessed in all walks of life, let’s consider helping a friend with a relationship issue. By drawing on your personal morals, values and experiences you give ‘advice’ based on your own filters which, for your intended recipient, may not be the the right or required advice they need. Clinical interventions can be just as difficult, most noticeably in addiction cases. By stepping in to “solve” the addict’s problems, the enabler takes away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for the addict to change. This is similar in exercise rehabilitation with musculoskeletal injuries or as a physical trainer dealing with obesity, advances in our ability to diagnose allows us to attach a label to a person, this gives them an identity formed around their condition so they can then adapt their behaviour in accordance and define themselves by their symptoms taking away their motivation for change.

Enabling creates a sense of powerlessness, often discouraging and de-motivating the person who needs help. It can be difficult to perceive our enabling when deep down our intention is to help or appease. The question we should all ask ourselves is… For what reasons am I attempting to help someone? Am I just problem solving or you attempting to empower that person? Are my actions helping this person to feel more self-empowered? Does this person actually want help and are they motivated for change? What good or harm can come from my intervention? It’s easy to think that we have all the answers and if people just listened then we can shower than with this valuable knowledge.

We have a moral obligation to empower people so they may realise their own potential, people are capable of amazing things and don’t require spoonfuls of our world. Give those in your life an opportunity to express their feelings, talk frankly and as you engage, be open, actively listen, emphasise and keep your personal view of the world in check. By empowering those who touch your life, you will give them a true opportunity to take responsibility and ownership of their situations and experiences.

Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology once wrote, ‘People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner. I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds’. 

We all want to help others, be supportive, and care for those we love, however I would invite you all to consider the potential of empowerment.

Information cited from Psychology today, and Dr. Tad James, NLP Trainer, M.S, Ph.D.

Magic, Life and Marmite

People love and hate magic in equal measure and for similar reasons. What ever side of the fence you sit, the question is the same, how do magicians do it? Do you feel frustrated at being ‘tricked’ or does it trigger similar emotions you felt as a child when you saw something new for the first time?

As children, the world is a brand new place for us – everything is a mystery. We embrace the unknown simply because we have no other choice, maybe this is why they are so enthusiastic about magic. Then something happens… we grow up. We develop critical faculty and that wonder is replaced by fear, we learn that the unknown can be dangerous and discover the hard way that what we don’t know can hurt us. 

It’s ok not to like magic, our brains are designed to look for causal links, if you know that A equals B, and a magician creates a situation where A equals C then we develop cognitive overload. The human mind is designed to look for patterns, to identify connections between life experiences i.e. if I don’t look both ways when crossing the street I may get knocked over or if I don’t put suncream on in hot weather I will burn my skin. Making these kinds of links is beneficial for human survival, but what sense can our mind make of situations where the pattern of an experience isn’t as predicted? This is where the magic happens.

The reality presented by a magician isn’t the the reality our brains are used to engaging with, thus creating something called ‘cognitive dissonance’. This is where our brain forces us to justify events even if they didn’t go as expected. Eventually a point occurs where the brain cannot rationalise the events it’s just seen as magic creates a situation which can’t physically exist, thus leading to a unique sense of astonishment.

Magicians have explored the techniques that most effectively divert attention or exploit the shortcomings of human vision and awareness. This is known as ‘exogenous attentional capture’, the brain will always be drawn to something new that it has difficulty predicting and this will disrupt the processing of that experience.

Our brain sometimes ‘remembers’ certain actions or processes, it stops paying close attention because it predicts how they will end. This is known as a ‘memory-prediction framework’. When a magician puts a ball in a cup only to have it disappear when the cup is lifted, we are shocked because what our brain predicted didn’t come true. Our brains often feeds us a prediction and convinces us that we saw it happen, which leaves us even more shocked when the predicted action didn’t happen at all.

On a physiological level. The release of Oxytocin makes acts of cooperation and social interaction ‘feel good’. Oxytocin release means people are less likely to be critical of the tricks they are watching and even more likely to miss sleight of hand because the attention will be drawn to the magicians face as they engage with and charm their audience.

Magic’s gift is wonder and amazement, magicians make people question their reality, making the impossible seem possible. As we grow older we dilute this world, life can become predictable, unchanging and dull. We have a hard time accepting that life can’t always be the way we want, that we won’t always have the answer we need. In the words of Lao-Tzu ‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them as it only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality.’

The solution may be simple, enjoy the magic that you encounter in your life, accept it and go with the flow.

Information cited from and Davenport Magic Training, Charing Cross, London.

Unsolicited advice to my teenage self.

If you had the opportunity to speak to your teenage self, what advice, support and guidance would you offer yourself? Here are a few pearls of wisdom I would consider offering the overweight, spotty faced teen I once was…

Matt, your self-worth must come from within. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and ditch those negative influences that drag you down. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Fear is the number one source of regret. When you look back on your life, you will lament the chances you didn’t take far more than you will your failures. You will never fail, you will however find thousands of ways that won’t work out. Have faith, stay focused and don’t take the path of least resistance.

Great success is often preceded by failure. The biggest breakthroughs typically come when you’re feeling the most frustrated and the most stuck. It’s this frustration that forces you to think differently and see the solution that you’ve been missing. 

You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive someone. Grudges let negative events from your past ruin your happiness. When you forgive someone, it doesn’t condone their actions; it simply frees you from being a victim.

Being busy does not equal being productive. You are the product of your output, not your effort, success doesn’t come from movement and activity, it comes from focus. 

Choose your attitude, it is your reaction to what life hands you, and it is only you who can choose that reaction. You can be subservient to external events, few of which you have any control over, or you can take charge of your own response.

Chasing girls is a misnomer. The paradox is that you often find the one you’re looking for when you stop looking, do the things you love and she may just be there.

You are the total sum of your experiences, everything that has happened to you both positive and negative has made you the person you will become and you will be thankful for all those events. Life is unfair but you will thrive in spite of it, in the words of Martin Luther King “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

And finally… buy some stock in Apple, seriously… you will thank me later.

Maybe the question isn’t what advice would you offer your teenage self but would you actually give yourself any advice at all? You are you because you discovered, learnt and grew by making mistakes, taking risks and living through experience on your own personal journey through life… and surely that is what makes being alive so special.

Information cited from Dr Travis Bradbury and the FISH Philosophy,