Simple Happiness

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Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things. ... Despite these afflictions man wants to be happy, only wants to be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy.

But how shall he go about it?  The best thing would be to make himself immortal, but as he cannot do that, he has decided to stop himself thinking about it.

-Blaise Pascal 1623-1662

The opportunities that life presents us today should provide us the conditions for happiness. But, as we are all discovering, these choices are not making life simpler, but more complex.

So many good choices, yet, so difficult to decide. Or so many hard choices, so difficult to act upon.

As a result, we ignore the complexity, and just choose the path that seems the least troublesome.

We face our opportunities with a form of denial. We deny that complexity has any control over our lives, and so we lean on the tried and true, denying that the world has really changed.

I see this particularly in how people have dealt with the recession over the past four years. A classic hunker down, trim way, downsize, wait it out scenario. That may work for some, if your industry is healthy, and your community is growing, but for others, not so much.

We must work through the complexity to discover simplicity that leads the happiness we desire.

Simplicity in this sense is becoming clear about what we want and how we want to get there.

This is how the Circle of Impact Guides came to be. Through lots of conversation about change, finding clarity in the midst of confusion, and discovering a simple path forward through a process that came to be. Here's how the image above gets processed.

Circle of Impact-StepbyStepI've written about this before at here and here.

Working through Complexity to Simplicity  

Complexity comes when we see so many opportunities. They are embedded in the relationships that we have with people, and the many places we encounter those people.

Our Network of Relationships

Consider for a moment the full range of people that you know and with whom you regularly interact. This interaction may be face-to-face or online. It really does not matter. Because there are opportunities for impact in almost any place where we have those relationships. There are more with some people than others, but the point is that each relationship has its own natural potential waiting to be realized.

If you were to map your network of relationships, meaning first list everyone with whom you regularly interact, and show the links between them, then with you, by interest, values, social or organizational proximity, and your desire for greater depth in the relationship, then you will see a broad range of opportunities emerging.

If you are at a transition point, these are the opportunities that will carry you into the next stage of life or work.

Social and Organizational Settings

Next list the social and organizational contexts where you live and work. These are places that you meet people, work with them, have fun with them, do serious things with them, serve with them, worship with them, do things with your children with them, and interact with them on the large and small issues of life and work.

The complexity for a lot of people has not come from those they meet face-to-face, but with those whom they meet online in a virtual relationship. Facebook provides the best example of a place where people go to interact with a wide diversity of people. Within those settings, there will be a small percentage of people with whom there are opportunities that advance us forward in our life and work. Make sure this people are included in your above list.

Like what you can find in Google+, identify the various places where you interact with these people. List them according to these There are opportunities that come in each, but they are dependent upon the relationships finding a common ground for working together.

Focusing on Our Values and Purpose

List the values that matter to you. There is no master list. What matters is that these ideas matter to the extent that they are non negotiable. From this list comes a sense of purpose that orients us toward what we want to achieve in life.

For example, one of my ambitions is to help people discover their call and realize their potential. It is based upon more core values of respect and belief in the inherent dignity and value of people.

My strongest relationships are with people who share a similar set of values. Some I'm never physically been in their presence. Yet, we support and mutually mentor one another based on those values.

When our purpose and values align with our social and organizational settings, we'll find happiness and fulfillment growing in our lives.  When these become clear, we will find our lives and work simplifying, and decisions more easily defined, and the actions that follow done with greater focus and passion.

Simple Happiness
Happiness is a product of values, purpose and action. It is not simply a feeling, which is fleeting. It is the full flourishing of human life.

Happiness becomes simple when we are clear about our purpose, and we are able to share its work with like-minded people.


Making it simple, and then following through

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Life is complex without making it more so. We do it to ourselves everyday. We pile up expectations and qualifications that force us to manage competing demands on our attention.

Instead of trying to focus more, instead of trying to concentrate more, we could just try to make it simpler.

Ask one questions.

Ask for the ...

one thing to do

one person to talk with

one thing to do over

one thing to get done, today

one obstacle to remove

one task not to do

one phone call to make, not make

Ask these kind of questions, and follow through on the answer.

The key is make it simple and follow through.


Garr Reynolds on Simplicity

Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen recently spoke at the Cytrix Synergy conference on the topic of simplicity. The video of this 45 minute presentation by Garr is only available at the Duarte blog.

Garr's presentation - Simplicity and the art of thinking differently - should be watched with a eye and ear to Matt May's just published In Pursuit of Elegance (read my review) and John Maeda's The Laws of Simplicity. There is a message here that is important. Here's my take.

Simplicity isn't simplistic or superficial, but rather a higher state of development.

To be simple is to see clearly what was obscured by many competing notions and distractions.

To be simple makes it easier to communicate, to connect with others and to create the collaborative organizational structures that we need.

To be simple is to create a more elegant product or service or even an organization.

To be simple is to see and understand what is happening as it is taking place.

To be simple is to know how to resolve issues and conflicts before they rise to the level of crisis.

The influence of Garr Reynolds, Matt May and John Maeda on my thinking is giving me new insight into the nature of leadership. I will share more as I consolidate my thoughts into something coherent and clear. Until then, read them, listen to them, and begin to imagine how simplicity and elegance can become ways your work is recognized by clients and colleagues.

In Addition: Wally Bock links to this NYTimes article about Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice-chairman of WalMart where he speaks about simplicity.

I read something early on when I was in my first or second management role that you can accomplish almost anything in life if you do not care who takes credit for it. So I’ve tried to do more of that. And I’ve tried to do less of the things that make business more complex. I really like simplicity. At the end of the day, retailing - but you could apply this to many other businesses - is not as complicated as we would like to make it. It is pretty logical and simple, if you think about the way that you yourself would act, or do act, as a customer.