Three sources of happiness – from Michael Bungay-Stainer

Three sources of happiness – from Michael Bungay-Stainer

A Canadian coach and “e-friend” of mine (we’ve never actually met but have had some enjoyable email conversations recently included the following article in his eNewsletter. Enjoy…

Three Sources of Happiness

Why bother being happy?

I”ve read the claim that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile (although no one seems to know exactly how many) and I assume that being happy is a good thingê¢__‘Ô_

But apart from saving energy, what’s really in it for me?

As it happens, a bunch of things.

Robert Biswas-Diener & Ben Dean’s wise and useful book, Positive Psychology Coaching lists some of the benefits research has discovered – happy people live longer, stay married longer, make more money, receive better evaluation from supervisors, take fewer sick days, are more altruistic and more creative.

That’s not a bad start.

Part of your level of happiness is genetic – you”re just born with an inclination or otherwise to be happy.

But only part. Studies show that much of our individual happiness has to do with our intentional activities, and how we create meaning in our world.

So in the quest to bump up your Happiness Quotient, here are three ways to get more of that warm and fuzzy feeling

1. Give It Your Best

One of the most powerful coaching questions I know, and one I often start a coaching session with is, “What’s working?”

Much has been written about working from one’s strengths – but for many cultures, it’s a far more practiced place to look to what’s not working or where we”re lacking or not quite up to scratch.

In the glorious words of Baloo the Bear from the Jungle Book movie: “Accentuate the Positiveê¢__‘Ô_”

Understanding and then working from your strengths is not just more fun. It’s also easier.


You”ll probably be able to take a fair stab at what your strengths are. But now you can get really specific.

Take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire (VIA stands for Values in Action), a free way to find and rank 24 strengths here. It’s been taken by more than 30,000 people around the world, and is run by Martin Seligman – a giant in this field – so it’s a rock solid way to find out what you”re best at.

Anyone who’s remotely interested in coaching should at this stage pick up Positive Psychology Coaching (which I mention above). This is a truly excellent book – it’s already in my top five books that have influenced my coaching. It’s got wise things to say about happiness (many of them counterintuitive), useful resources (such as the questionnaire above), and practical demonstrations on how to use this material to coach.

2. Give it a rest

The second half of Baloo the Bear’s snappy line is “ê¢__‘Ô_eliminate the negative/Forget about your worries and your strife.”

What would it be like to put down the burden of the various worries and concerns nagging away at you?

How much time and energy would that free up for you? How much would it allow you to better be with the people you love in your life?


I”m not a fan of most viral movies – ironic, seeing as many of you came to this newsletter through The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun.

I recently came across one that actually struck a chord- it’s called The Trouble Tree and it’s well worth giving yourself 3 minutes to hear its message

Also, consider signing up for their newsletter at the end of the movie. It’s for the Gimundo website which does a great service by providing news that “focuses on the positive and celebrates the GOOD”

3. Give It Away

The other day on the radio, someone was talking about one of the most effective means of preventing suicide.


“People who are showing up to help on Tuesday don”t kill themselves on Monday.”

One of the factors that influences your happiness is your social network, and one way to weave yourself into that network and be connected is by giving someone your time.


Give someone a helping hand.

It doesn”t have to be a big thing – a child, a spouse, a friend. Or it can be stepping up and giving your time to one of the thousands of small groups who are doing good in your community.

A fantastic book on this is Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World by Marc and Craig Kielburger. The Kielburgers founded Free the Children and Leaders Today when they were teenagers. Their book brings together their own stories and those of others such as Jane Goodall and Oprah Winfrey and practical advice on how to get involved.

You might also be inspired by checking out the website “The Richest People in America” here (a hint: it’s not about the cash), introduced to me by Denise Mosawi of Destineering.