Happy season

by Viv Cole on December 24, 2013

At this time of year there’s plenty of times that you’ll hear ‘Happy Christmas’ or ‘Happy New Year’ which got me thinking about the nature of happy. There are three pertinent stories I wanted to share, two from 2013 but the first one from 20 years ago…

After university I had a fun year where I was elected to be in charge of university sport. Probably the greatest honour of that year was the annual dinner where apart from the nervous distraction of having to do a speech, I got to spend an evening next to guest speaker  Matthew Pinsent, who had recently won his second world rowing gold to go alongside his gold from the Barcelona Olympics. I asked him how happy he’d felt when he’d won his Olympic Gold. He demurred and said that the biggest emotion had been relief – he and Steve Redgrave believed that they were best in the world and had trained so hard that even if they had a bad day they would still win.

Moving forward 20 years I found myself enjoying dinner at the Learning & Performance Institute conference and being entertained by after dinner speaker Andy Cope . One fallacy about happiness that he skewered was the ‘rainbow and crock of gold’. This ‘crock of gold’ or X is subjective – it could be hitting your sales target, losing a stone, getting promoted…It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying ‘I’ll work really hard towards X and then I’ll be happy’. The subtext here is ‘I will be unhappy until I achieve X’. It’s even worse if your X is unachievable or outside your control, you’ve just talked yourself into being miserable for ever.

Targets and ambitions are important – they generally help us get things done. However, it’s all too easy to let things get in the way of feeling happy on the way to target or once we’ve hit target. For me 2013 has been a very good year – lots of things have gone well. One happy moment that stands out was walking my daughter to nursery. We were running late on a crisp Spring day. Whilst hurrying along we were chatting about the blossom on the trees. She asked me, so I lifted her up and we smelled the blossoms together – sublime.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2014 of success and hitting your targets. More importantly, good luck with taking opportunities to be happy.

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