What a pleasant, unexpected surprise when I received my son’s holiday gift, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama & Archbishop, Desmond Tutu. Actually, my initial reaction was a feeling of mild imposition and a sense of superiority, since, of course, I’ve read all this stuff before. How silly we all are, at times, right?
Full disclosure; I haven’t read the whole book yet. I’m savoring it.
I just had one of those old-fashioned phone conversations with a friend, and our conversation turned to New Year reflection, focus, setting goals and taking action. For those of us in business, it is extremely important to take stock and plan for success. When we do this, we often “get in our heads.” We turn inward hoping to discover the obstacles that likely set us back previously. We start to look at who we are and how we do things so that we can navigate the highway of our mental framework in order to do things better this year.
That is natural and good. However, a good portion of what I have read so far in the Book of Joy is that thinking out of our heads is what leads to joy. Rather than thinking about ourselves, these wise men tell us to focus on helping other people and on kindness. Instead of worrying about what is going on with us, to let that challenge go, for a short period, and find some way to find a way to help someone else. It is fun, thrilling and exciting because in my experience, following their sage advice, I feel better, almost immediately.
In our super-fast paced world, I wonder how we juxtapose finding time to focus on helping others and racing to do all that we have to do to grow our businesses, to be strategic, to be competitive. I know the answer is likely, the same way we have always done this. Yet, I believe that because our communication is made up of more and more texting, e-mailing, and social media posts, coming from our egos and being more “in our heads” is inevitable. There is less actual conversation.
I realize that there are many ways we can contribute and help others. I think what the Dalai Lama and Tutu refer to is more than giving to charity. I think it is planning when we wake to treat someone better, to do something nice, to help out someone in need, to become more aware of what is happening with someone else, and practicing this behavior throughout the day.
Is it possible? I believe so. When we feel consumed at work, we have to find a way to set a mental alarm so we become aware that we want to stop a moment, perhaps take a deep breath, and somehow switch gears and think how we can do something for another person.
I was recently at a board meeting and a couple of the other board members went out of their way to assist me. They were simple gestures. Yet, I so appreciated their thoughtfulness, their awareness that they could help me in some way. Knowing that, I will certainly want to do the same for others and experience even more joyfulness in my life.