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Making Time for Happiness: The Hidden Leadership Secret


Time passing

One of your employees seems unengaged or not “all in.” A friend complains that there aren’t enough hours in the day. A client struggles to balance his demanding job with grad school and family obligations, neglecting his own health and wellness. Perhaps you’ve encouraged these people (on more than one occasion) to change their priorities. Or maybe the person who needs the “reality check” on priorities is you. Either way, we know that many of the greatest leaders achieved professional and personal success by learning to manage their priorities. Living a happy, balanced life really matters.

If that sounds great in theory but reality often gets in the way, start small. Just add a few more people and things into your day that bring you joy. Spending time with a significant other or friend. Reading a great book. Listening to music. Gardening. Preparing a healthy meal or taking the kids on a bike ride. Only have 5 minutes? Go for it. Trust me, a little joy can go a long way. It’s easy to build on that once you get started.

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

To make sure you actually get your daily dose of performance-boosting joy, try scheduling it. Put a lunch break on your calendar if you tend to skip it most days. Or block out time to go for a walk. Yes, that might feel a bit rigid at first (“Isn’t fun supposed to be spontaneous?”), but it’s a necessary step. If you don’t begin by deliberately scheduling happiness and wellness activities into your crazy-busy life, they may not get done.

As you review the things that bring you joy, you’ll probably notice they don’t involve anything that nags at you, beeps at you, or rings for your attention—unless those alerts are coming from your family, and then you should definitely listen! The people who bring you joy can only wait patiently in the background for so long before conflict and stress emerge. That might translate as a health crisis, extreme fatigue or the inability to focus on your work. Inevitably, people with a “joy deficit” wander through life in a fog, later realizing that years have passed and they just aren’t happy.

In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes about the importance of finding time to play and go off the path, seeking out new people and experiences as a source of creative energy. Develop a list of simple things that make you happy and people who make you feel energized. Schedule them in, and make them a priority. I think you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve (personally and professionally) by adding 15-30 minutes of joy into your life every day.


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