How to Be Happy in Business—and Life

Happiness may seem like a strange subject for us to cover here.

But it’s a topic that comes up with my coaching clients all the time.

They feel happy when they reach an important goal . . . at least for a while.

But then the thrill fades.

And they keep searching for the elusive state of constant happiness.

Part of the problem is that we all have misconceptions about what happiness is and isn’t.

One of the most thoughtful commentaries I’ve seen on the subject is by Naval Ravikant on his podcast “Naval.”

In one episode, Naval delves deep into the idea of “happiness” and suggests different ways to think about it.

Naval was born into poverty in India before emigrating to the U.S. to become an incredibly successful Silicon Valley investor.

So he draws from his own experience in a very genuine way.

In this article, I reflect on some of the lessons about happiness that we can draw from Naval.

And how we can use those lessons to bring more happiness into our personal and business lives.

Happiness is a Skill

Naval writes that happiness is a skill. It’s something you can develop and improve on, just like nutrition and fitness.

It is not a natural talent or God-given ability.

Because happiness is a skill, you can get better at developing more consistent and longer periods of happiness.

Achieving a perpetual state of happiness is an unrealistic expectation. Being happy doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time.

It’s more about being at peace.

You Can’t Buy Your Way to Happiness

Money by itself won’t make you happy. Having more material things won’t make you happy.

If our possessions made us happy, cavemen would have been miserable—and we should all be deliriously happy right now.

I found this statement particularly powerful: “Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”

Even with more choices, prosperity and freedom in the world, net happiness per person is not going up. It might even be going down.

I believe that’s because we haven’t evolved as people at the same rate that all this prosperity has entered our world.

This means we have an opportunity to rise to the occasion and become the kind of person who deserves that level of prosperity.

Although you can’t buy happiness, you can buy your way out of common causes of unhappiness.

Getting enough money to meet your basic needs will certainly make you happy.

Which leads to this definition of happiness: “Happiness is returning to the state where nothing is missing in this moment.”

Happiness is Its Own Reward

Being unhappy is inefficient.

Peaceful people don’t have extraneous thoughts going through their heads. But if you’re a driven, unhappy person, your mind is on 24/7.

What are the consequences of this?

You don’t sleep well. You’re more likely to react, become angry and dig yourself into a hole when you’re unhappy.

Natal notes that in the modern age, the quality of the decision you make is everything.

Think about it . . . if Warren Buffett makes the right decision 85% of the time (and his competitors make the right decision 65 or 70% of the time), Buffett is going to win out.

That’s the source of Buffett’s strength: good decision-making. He makes maybe one, two or three deals a year. That’s it!

So that makes you wonder . . . is hard work really the solution?

Sure, at first, you have to work hard to build your business to the point where you have some leverage.

You have to hustle. You have to say yes to a lot of things, even if they’re not great options.

But there comes a point where that formula needs to change.

Once you have enough leverage, good decision-making becomes your most powerful tool for achieving greater and greater success.

Naval asks: do you want to be the best in the world by working the hardest? Or do you want to be the best in the world by working more intelligently?

So, yes . . . happiness is its own reward.

But achieving a fairly consistent level of happiness in your life has side benefits. It helps create positive outcomes that can grow that happiness even further.

Happiness is “Peace From Mind”

Naval explains that when you say you want to be happy, what you’re actually saying is you want peace of mind.

But what we really want is peace from mind. Peace from our non-stop monkey mind that’s on 24/7.

We’re no longer under constant threat from tigers and bears.

Modern society is safer and more peaceful. But our brains still operate as if we’re still surrounded by dangerous animals. Our brains haven’t evolved to match our current reality.

That said, modern life is still hectic, just in different ways.

Today, the sources of our stress are chronic.  We have more inputs, experiences, and information coming at us than ever before.

Which means we still have loads of opportunities to react and overreact.

Work Towards Understanding

Finally, Naval suggests that peace isn’t something you can achieve directly. You can’t work toward peace.

But you can work toward understanding.

When we talk about peace, and how to get there, we’re really talking about the search for truth.

He says: “Peace is happiness at rest. Happiness is peace in motion.”

So, yes, Natal’s 27-minute episode is packed with ideas, insights, and wisdom.

I encourage you to take a listen.

For my part, the biggest takeaway is simple and powerful: happiness is a skill we can all develop.

Happiness is a choice. It’s up to us.

Assuming we’re mentally healthy, we can choose to be happy—in business and in life.

And that’s a very empowering thought.



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