Leadership Practice #1: The Practice of Happiness

Damn. My mind kept spinning through the task list, conversations with clients, and what I needed to pack for the trip. Some meditation! It was more like a mental washing machine on spin cycle.

But that is the experience of meditation. Show up, do the work, and just be ok with whatever happens. Sometimes its blissful, often times not. This is a challenge for my goal-oriented ego. I need to be GOOD at this. *Sigh.* Turning meditation in to a need to prove something is defeating the purpose.

In yoga, meditation, and martial arts, the end goal is not mastery, but practice. It is the art of daily commitment that is the whole work. Mastery is simply the sum of practice adding depths and layers to the experience.

The same is true of leadership. It is a daily practice, not an end goal. When we show up every day in practice, we add depth, breadth, and richness to our work as leaders.

In her book, Fierce Leadership, Susan Scott asks us to look at what we are actually practising, because we are always practising something. If we complain about our colleagues, we are practising negativity. If we catastrophise about the future, then we are practising worry. If we skip our workout, we are practising laziness.

In our daily choices, we find our practice. And likely there is room for improvement.

In this series of articles, we look at three leadership practices that will transform you and your world forever.

This is the first practice, and the most fundamental:

The Practice of Happiness

A few years ago, one of my clients lamented about his unfulfilled life, and asked, “What do I need to do to be happy?” He told me later that my response was like having a tuning forked drummed against his head, in perfect resonance.

I told him, “John, you don't DO happy, you BE happy.”

Happiness is what happens when we choose a good-feeling story about what is happening to us. This is a lesson I keep teaching myself. (This is the practice of being an inconsistent student of my own teachings!)

Consider this example: I travel extensively with my work to far flung remote places, work with diverse and fascinating people, and am continually growing.

The practice of ‘Whingeing’ delivers this story: “I am so busy, I never get down time, I am exhausted, this sucks.”

The practice of ‘Happiness’ tells this story: “What an incredible life I lead! From the desert, to the coast, to the snow in 3 weeks, and getting picked up in a Porsche. What a grand adventure!”

Practising happiness is a daily choice. The good news: it gets easier with practice (kind of like meditation).

The practice of Happiness is a contagious one. Imagine an organisation that practiced happiness as its default engagement pattern? It would be whirlpool of positivity.

What are you practising? What is your default internal narrative? What do you want instead?