Stanford GSB Lecturer Carole Robin gave a presentation on Happiness, Meaning, and Engagement to a packed audience of GSB alumni during Fall Reunion Weekend. Here are key insights from the talk:
What is happiness determined by?
- 50% of our happiness is determined by genetics
- 10% of our happiness is determined by circumstance (Example: getting married, rich or having kids)
- We “hedonically” adapt to circumstances that make us happy. Our circumstances do not permanently make us happy; it becomes the status quo.
- 40% of happiness is determined by intentional activity or what you do. Luckily, this 40% is in our direct control.
How can you increase happiness? Carole Robin provided a happiness framework consisting of 3 aspects of life: enjoyment, engagement and purpose. She also recommended specific activities for each aspect of life and strongly encouraged to practice these activities for at least a couple weeks (in order to feel a difference):
1. Increase enjoyment.
- Practice appreciation to anybody about anything.
- Savor one thing or moment a day. Example: Savor your cup of coffee in the morning.
- Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of the day, write 3-5 things you’re grateful for that day – small or big. Over time, you’ll start to notice and see things you’re grateful for throughout the course of the day.
2. Engagement: find your flow.
- Flow is achieved when you’re fully engaged, immersed and absorbed in an activity.
- Flow is associated with signature strengths. The activity needs to be a good match between your skill level and challenge level, meaning it can’t be too challenging or else you’ll end up feeling frustrated, not happy.
- There’s a strong correlation between experiencing flow and enduring levels of happiness.
- Find activities and experiences that get you in a state of flow.
3. Expand your zone of learning.
- You have your own zone of safety of what you normally do and think.
- Outside your zone of safety is the zone of ambiguity. Outside the zone of ambiguity is the zone of danger.
- Try to stretch beyond your comfort zone and expand your zone of safety.
Below are two activities we did that you can try to do with your friends and family:
1. Pair up: Share a time when you were in a state of flow
- Reflect on a time you were in a state of flow.
- Pair up with someone you don’t know.
- Tell your partner a bit about your flow and experience.
- What might this experience suggest about what’s really important to you?
2. Team up with another pair: Brainstorm how you can be more intentional
- Briefly share your conclusion from the pair activity of what’s really important to you
- Have the other 3 people in your group brainstorm how you can intentionally get more of what’s important to you.
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