Sustainable Happiness

Sustainable Happiness

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh has a cool approach toward creating a work culture of sustainable happiness. His approach examines three forms of happiness:

1. Pleasure
2. Passion, or “flow”
3. Higher purpose, or values

Hsieh advises that pleasure is the rarest form of happiness, and should be acknowledged and appreciated when it occurs–but its pursuit should not take up the majority of our efforts at work (or in our personal lives). Pleasure is not sustainable, and we can’t expect to constantly experience a “rush.”

A better use of energy involves doing things that tap into our deepest passions and create “flow,” which psychologists have defined as the experience of losing track of time while doing something that is extremely meaningful and for which we have considerable talent.

However, the best use of our time and focus at work and in life involves ensuring that our activities are constantly aligned with our higher purpose, or values. These are the things that “make us tick,” that are “what we’re all about.” The more we ensure that our efforts are characterized by such alignment, the more often we will find ourselves in those states of passionate flow…and the more likely we are to have those brief windows of healthy pleasure.

I’ll share a personal example. My core values are practicing mindfulness to create more awareness and joy, practicing loving kindness, caring for people and resources entrusted to me, writing in a manner that reflects real human experiences, and coaching others to help them thrive.

I write and coach people nearly every day that I’m “at work.” When my daily activities are aligned with these values, I frequently move into that state of flow. And such flow will sometimes–not always, but sometimes–create moments of intense pleasure that are filled with positive emotions. And when I’m embracing my closest personal relationships in a manner aligned with those same values, I’m visited by even more beautiful moments of flow and pleasure.

So here’s the essence of the approach: identify your core values, align all work activities and relationships with those values, and proceed from there. Lather, rinse, repeat. Try, fail, try again. And gradually move toward muscle memory and mastery.

Simple enough? Let’s practice it together.