If you’re looking for happiness as an entrepreneur, then you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.JetBlue Airways has a new, fun short film, HumanKinda, exploring how little enjoyment we get out of our over-scheduled lives. The elusive feeling of happiness, though, seems inversely proportional to the time we set aside to create it. And business owners don’t have a lot of time.
Instead, we should be looking for meaning in our lives, argues Dr. Christine Carter, the featured sociologist in HumanKinda and author of The Sweet Spot. I talked with Carter about how meaning leads to happiness, what tech does to our focus and why it may have been easier for our entrepreneurial ancestors to have balanced lives.
I was honored to be a part of filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s Gratitude Revealed series — 16 film shorts that explore what gratitude is. Over the next few months, we’ll highlight one film a week, illustrating why gratitude is important and what we can all do to live more gracious lives.
Although people tell me all the time they like feeling busy — perhaps because it makes them feel important and significant — I’m not buying it. Would you ever choose busyness over a more relaxed form of productivity? When life starts to feel hectic, here are a few ways to dial back the overwhelm.
Give yourself a shot of awe.When researchers induced feelings of awe in people — by showing them video clips of people next to vast things like whales or waterfalls, it altered their perception of time such that they — those people felt like they had more time on their hands. So much time on their hands, in fact, that awe-struck people become likely to give away their time by volunteering to help someone out. They also report fewer feelings of impatience.
Not sure where to find yourself some awe? Look no farther than YouTube. Try searching “awe” and “whales,” or just watch this oldie but goodie video clip — it makes me feel awestruck every time. If the concept of “awe” feels too abstract, try thinking about things that amaze you. What makes you feel a childlike sense of wonder? Makes you feel elevated or inspired? Now take five minutes to let one of those things work their magic on your busy brain.
Create an anti-busyness ritual. Researchers believe that the brains in both humans and animals evolved to feel calmed by repetitive behavior, and that our daily rituals are a primary way to manage stress. This is especially true in unpredictable environments or situations where we feel pressured, a lack of control, or threatened in some way.
When the pace of life seems to be taking off without you, create a ritual to help you feel more in control. What counts as a ritual? Something you do repetitively in certain situations — usually a series of behaviors done in the same order. Think of your favorite ball player’s pregame ritual.
When I start to feel pressured for time, my own “busyness ritual” kicks in: I stretch my neck (first by looking to the left, and then to the right, and then by tipping my left ear to my left shoulder and my right ear to my right shoulder). I exhale deeply with each stretch, and then center my head, and straighten my posture. On my last exhale, I think to myself: “I have plenty of time.” The stretching and deep breathing may be what helps me feel calm, but also having and using a ritual — any ritual — can help us feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
I know, I know. You don’t have time to foster awe, or create an anti-busyness ritual, or stop multi-tasking. You’re too busy!
Listen: You don’t have time NOT to do these things. Busyness is a mark of what neuroscientists call “cognitive overload.” This state impairs our ability to think creatively, to plan, organize, innovate, solve problems, make decisions, resist temptations, learn new things easily, speak fluently, remember important social information, and control our emotions. In other words, it impairs basically everything we need to do in a given day. So if you have important work to do, please: Take five minutes to dial back your busyness.
If you liked this post, you’ll love this short and funny documentary, HumanKinda. The premise is that busyness robs us of our humanity, making us only “kinda” human.
Photo credit: Gemma Correll commissioned by JetBlue for Humankinda.
As parents and adults who work with youth, we can positively impact kids’ lives through helping them build good social skills, which are, I believe, more important than academic or athletic skills.
At school, very little–if any–time is spent teaching these important skills, but for youth who struggle with social skills deficits, this attention is vital. Deficits in social skills are linked to a myriad of problems for youth and adults, while healthy social skills are associated with many positive life outcomes. Therefore, it behooves us to teach social skills to youth. But where do we start?
One place is with a quick assessment of which of the following ten skills need the most strengthening, then pick just one to work on at a time. As you introduce a skill, be positive and not condemning or critical. Say something like, “Making friends can be hard sometimes. I’d like to talk with you about something you can do that will help you make friends. How does that sound?” Read the full post for 10 essential friendship skills every kid needs.
“When you are living in your sweet spot you feel both calm and energetic, accomplished and joyful, strong and at ease.
Dr. Christine Carter’s The Sweet Spot illuminates the simple and sustainable path toward this precious and happy balance.”
“The Sweet Spot has inspired me to make immediate changes that have increased my productivity and lowered my stress. I’ve also shared Dr. Carter’s research-backed ideas with my executive coaching clients—men and women eager to up their game—and I know it will help them manage their teams to better results, too.”
Dan Mulhern, Executive Coach, Award-winning Professor, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business
“I sat down to read Christine Carter’s The Sweet Spot on a particularly busy day, and oddly found that as I read, I could see a better way through obligations. In other words, this book did something I thought was impossible: it seemed to give me more time. In this age of overstuffed schedules, that’s about as good as self-help advice can get. Thank you, Christine!”
“You can read stacks of the best books on stress management and well-being, sign up for classes about resiliency and hire a personal coach to help you find true happiness or you can just pick up a copy of The Sweet Spot. Refreshing, timely and inspiring, it will help you experience a new way of being: calm, energized and free to focus on what really matters most.”
Renee Peterson Trudeau, life balance coach and author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life
“Timely, lively, and vital... The Sweet Spot is useful immediately and a must read. Carter gets to the heart of how to pursue happiness in a busy world, without sacrificing excellence. This book spoke to me.”
Shawn Achor, NY Times bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage
“If it isn’t hard it isn’t work, right? Carter turns this assumption on its head by showing us how to be stronger and make life easier, both through her own experience and new research. The Sweet Spot is worth finding, and she teaches us how.”
Lucy Danziger, NY Times bestselling co-author of The Nine Rooms of Happiness: Loving Yourself, Finding Your Purpose, and Getting Over Life's Little Imperfections
“Funny, intimately honest, and so practical—Dr. Carter pulls pure gold out of studies on the brain and happiness. Her book reads like a page-turning thriller full of proven ways to have the life you want.”
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Calm, Contentment, and Confidence
“My copy of Christine Carter’s The Sweet Spot is underlined, scribbled on, and dog-eared because of all the pages I want to come back to. Filled with evidence-based research, helpful, practical advice and her own warm, generous and funny stories, The Sweet Spot is a gift, like a good friend drawing a personal roadmap out of the crazy busy swirl of our overloaded lives toward the sweet spot of a happier and more meaningful one.”
Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One has the Time, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post staff writer
“In this compelling and practical book, you will learn not only the latest research about how to wire your brain and body for your sweet spot, you will learn exactly how to use this information right now to create a much sweeter life!”
“I have a rich and full life, but I sometimes find myself bowled over by the waves of everyday life. Reading this book is like being given a surfboard and surfing lessons. It is full to the brim with research-based tips and tricks for living in flow. Adopting even a few of them will profoundly improve your quality of life.”
Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., President and CEO, Institute of Noetic Sciences, coauthor of Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life.
“Finally, the author of my favorite book on parenting has written a book on work-life balance. Christine Carter has once again created the perfect blend of science and story, to give us practical tools for combating the overwhelm that seems to pervade modern life.”
“Christine offers "micro-habits" that help us move from overworked and overwrought into genuine relaxation and satisfaction. The Sweet Spot teaches us how to be calm and focused/energized at the same time.”