This weekend I re-read some pages from Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a book that is less about finding happiness than it is about how we always seem to get this part of our life wrong.
Here’s a passage from the book that I found amusing:
“[When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up] they generally come up with things like ‘the candy guy’ or ‘a tree climber.’ We chuckle because the odds that the child will ever become the candy guy or a tree climber are vanishingly small…But notice that while these are the wrong answers to our question, they are the right answers to another question, namely, ‘What do you want to be now?’”
Maybe in our search for happiness, we are not asking ourselves the right questions. The questions shouldn’t be about what we want from others – they should be about what we mean to others. The reason? Meaningfulness creates happiness.
So, how can you incorporate meaningfulness into your daily life? I think it’s simple. Just try to make sure each task you perform can be meaningful to someone in some way.
I really enjoy speaking to groups, but the speaking business can feel impersonal if there is no interaction. And it’s a little like the music business: repetitive. Mick Jagger sings Brown Sugar at every concert. I tell the same stories at every workshop. To overcome these would-be obstacles, I focus on individuals in the audience and speak directly to them, playing off their reactions. I try to spend as much time as possible with audience members before and after each presentation so I can hear their stories. And I make sure everyone knows I’m available to them even after our session has wrapped. I want to walk away feeling like I know my audience and they know me.
In the mortgage business, it’s easier to impact customers individually because of the necessary one-on-one interactions. Each customer has a unique situation and every loan has its own twist, and I enjoy breaking that code. It makes me happy to discover how to make the loan experience meaningful for the customer and, thus, meaningful to me.
To be honest, this is all a little selfish. I don’t do these things because I’m trying to be a great guy. I do them because it makes me happy! In the end, all you need to do is reach out and grab the heart of the person that stands in front of you, think about why you’re talking to them in the first place and figure out what you can do to help them get where they want to go.
Then do it – and get happy!