The Prepare for Awesome Podcast

Where I want to educate, inspire, motivate and empower you to strive higher, push further, give more, do more, be more as you become all you possibly can be.
If you are unhappy, then get up and do something about it.
It’s your life and if you are unhappy with it, you have the choice to change it.
PFA 002: Show notes
In the previous episode, I laid out a challenge.  That challenge was to be intentional about your thinking toward yourself.  So how did you get on with that?  I have had a few emails from listens telling me of their stories with that issue, so it would be great to hear your story.  You can email me at with those stories.
#PrepareForAwesome #Happiness #Happy #EmotionalIntelligence #Psychology #Philosophy #ArthurBrooks #DNA
At the top end of the show, I made a statement.  If you are unhappy, then get up and do something about it!
Firstly, I am not here talking about depression, psychological disorders, mental health issues.  These are serious things that need to be addressed by a medical professional.
What I am talking about is that feeling of being unhappy with your job, your financial circumstances, lifestyle, the friends you hang out with.  You may be unhappy with the results in your career or the results in your business.
That is what we are discussing in today’s show.
As I have already alluded to, we all know that unhappiness can come in various shades of gray.  It is one of those fuzzy concepts that we only know when we experience it.  You know – Life circumstance, the words of other people.
You, like me, may be unhappy with your name and cringe a little whenever you hear it.  My name is Victor and although I was named after my great uncle who died in the Second World War, it has never made me feel happy, so I use Vic.
All that stuff can make us unhappy.
Often we settle for what we think is right or acceptable or expected, but that just leaves us unhappy with life and many people begin to feel trapped in that space, as if there is nothing they can do about it.
But here’s the truth.  You are responsible for your happiness and if you are unhappy with where you are at, then change it.  Get up and do something about it.  It is your life.
However, often when I make that suggestion, the immediate reply I get is generally, “But how?  How do I change my circumstances or situation?”
And while that is a valid and good question, the better question and really the place to start is by asking, “Why?”  And the reason for asking why is because you really want to know the underlaying issue which is driving your unhappiness.
So if you are unhappy with your job, ask why.  What is driving that unhappiness?  And if you are willing to dig deep enough into your why, you may, for example, find your boss reminds you of an abusive father or a colleague reminds you of a boyfriend or girlfriend who caused you great pain.
Whatever it is you discover, you now know the reason for your unhappiness and at this point, you are in control.
If you put a hundred people in a room, ask the question, what is happiness, you’re likely to get at least a hundred answers and variations of those answers.
In philosophy it is seen as living the good life, an experiential thing.  You have a great meal out with friends, enjoy sometime afterward chatting and laughing or you get a promotion at work with a pay increase.  The experience drives the feeling of being happy.
In psychology, it’s more of an emotional or mental thing.  The feeling of well-being, having a great quality of life and contentment.
Or Monday morning and you have to go to a job you hate, spend the day with people you don’t like and then come home with just enough time to shove some food down your throat, shout at your kids, catch an hours TV, have 6 or 8 hours sleep, only to do it all again tomorrow.  The emotion of being unhappy!
In some religions, it’s about the ability to overcome cravings in all its forms, while in other religions it’s more about ethics or good fortune.
In reality, it is probably a combination of all these manifested differently through individual people, in a way which is totally unique to each person.  Kind of, ‘what makes me happy, makes you unhappy’ idea.
As I was researching for this episode, I came across some of the work by Professor Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute and the research he and others have done in the field of happiness.  I found this stuff really fascinating and it resonated with me.
So I want to give you my spin on what I have learned and then give you some ideas so that when you walk away from this podcast and you ask the question, ‘So what?’ you will have some firm answers.  When you ask the question, ‘How,’ you will have some answers.
Professor Brooks research showed that there are 3 factors which influence happiness:
The first is Genetics.  48% of your natural happiness is due to your DNA.  It is coded into you through your parents.
So if you are a generally happy person 48% of that is because of your ancestry.  If you are generally a miserable person, blame your parents.
We all know people who are always happy and bright.  They always smile and are just nice to be around.  At least for a while.  And I often have heard people say, ‘Its impossible that Jane / Jack / John is always happy.  They must be faking it.’  Turns out they may not be faking anything.
The flip side is, we all know people who look and act like their twin was a lemon.  They are sour and grumpy and miserable all the time.
Back in the day, when I was in the Air Force, we had Sargent Sands.  He was the most negative, sour person I think anyone could wish to meet.  I am sure you know a ‘Sargent Sands’ too.
This 48% was shown in a longitudinal study done by the University of Minnesota, called the Minnesota Twin Family Study, involving over 8000 sets of twins, including 81 pairs of identical twins who were separated at birth and therefore were raised in different environments.  This part of the study was led by psychology Professor Thomas Bouchard and became known as the Adoption study.
Although it is fairly heavy going, reading through this research has been fascinating.  Due to these twins obviously having the same genes / DNA they were perfect candidates to give researches this kind of data.
So, if almost half of your happiness or unhappiness is made up of your genes, you had better be aware of the other 2 factors and get them right.
Although it is fairly heavy going, reading through this research has been fascinating.  Due to these twins obviously having the same genes / DNA they were perfect candidates to give researches this kind of data.
The second of these factors is the Big Life Events.  The big goals we think will bring us happiness.
These are those things many people chase after thinking they produce happiness.
You know, when you are 25, 30 or 35 and you keep thinking, ‘If only I had a wife / husband, then I would be happy’  or ‘If I earn another £5000 a year, then I’ll be happy,’  or ‘If I change to XYZ company, their staff all seem really happy, so I will be to.’  or you are 55 and you are thinking ‘If I had started saving earlier, I would be able to retire now and then I would be happy.’
I so often hear people say, ‘If only I had won the Lottery on Saturday, I would be so happy.’
We know that these Big Life Events account for about 40% of our happiness.
The problem with these Big Life events is, generally they have a very short happiness life span.  For example, Lottery winners report they are on average happy for about 6 months after they win, before needing to find something else to pump themselves up again.  Something else to boast their happiness.
In a classic study on happiness from 1978, researchers found recent accident victims who were now either paraplegic or quadriplegic reported they had regained their pre-accident happiness within 6 months of the accident. Compare that with the lottery winners from the same study.
The third of these factors is choice which obviously makes up only 12% of our happiness, but this is where we have control and what we should be focused on.
You have choices to make every day.  You can choose to let your genetics control your happiness or you can choose to be in control of yourself.
You see if you focus on choosing how you feel, how you respond, how you react, you will find these big life events will happen as a consequence of your choice rather than the pursuit of them for the sake of pursuing them.
Suddenly you then change the equation from 12% which you can control to 52% which you can have a measure of control over.
So focus on choice.
Now, these numbers do have a margin of error and have been questioned over the years, so how accurate they are in terms of you as an individual I don’t know, but this I do know and science backs it up, you have more control over your happiness if you choose to have that control.  It is your choice to feel unhappy, miserable or sad.  Equally, it is your choice to feel happy regardless of the circumstance or situations.
So what you may be asking right about now?  And that is a good question.
Well now that you know you can determine your happiness for the most part, here are 5 things you can choose to do which will transform you into a generally happier and more fun to be around person:
  • Become more generous.  Research has shown that generous behaviour increases happiness and that stimulates more generous behaviour.  Generous decisions engage the temporoparietal junction of your brain where generous behaviour is processed and strengthens the connection to the ventral striatum, which is associated with happiness.  So be more generous with your time, your money and you will generally be happier.
  • Exercise.  We all know that exercise is good for us and we know that exercise, whether from weight training or cardiovascular exercise, releases certain brain chemicals which induce what is often called runner’s high.  Your brain releases stuff like serotonin, which is a mood boosting chemical, dopamine, which could be called a reward  and motivation chemical and endorphins, which are the ultimate feel good chemicals.  Research has shown that as little as 20 minutes of exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours.  So use that gym membership you have been paying for or just get out for a long walk.  Get yourself moving and you will feel better, even when you don’t want to.
  • Change your eating habits.  Now this is particularly difficult for me as I am not only a comfort eater, but I eat to satisfy a taste or a ‘craving’.  So for me, if I have had a rough day, give me a plate full of peanut butter sandwiches and a mug of sweet tea and I am off with the fairies for about half an hour.
    That does it help me?  For a short period, yes, but then I begin to feel the effects of the white bread, the peanut butter and come crashing down from the high I was on.  Mainly induced by the sugar in my tea, but also in the bread and the peanut butter.  So what food should you eat to improve your happiness?
    It does largely depend on who you ask, but a safe rule of thumb would be to avoid sugary ‘treats’ like doughnuts, pastries, milk chocolate and sweets.  Fizzy drinks should also not feature in your intake.  Fast foods, despite some famous brands suggesting otherwise, also should mainly be avoided.
    Eat fruit, veg and good quality protein, not forgetting good fats.
  • Get enough sleep.  Backed by research, sleep deprivation has been linked, not only with happiness but also with weight gain and increased risk of stroke.
    We all know that feeling of being grumpy and irritated when we don’t get enough proper sleep.  That feeling of, ‘If I could just go back to bed and sleep until I wake up.’
    The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain and triggers the fight or flight feeling we all get, particularly when not well rested. Stress, anger and fear are the kind of emotions that run through a tired brain, but a well rested brain has the input from the pre-frontal cortex which keeps the amygdala in check and prevents it from running the show.
    When we are awake, our brains produce adenosine, which is cleared up when you have quality sleep.  If it builds up, you will start to feel drowsy and sleepy.
    So get the sleep your body needs
  • Smile.  The more you smile, even if you force a smile, the happier you will become.  Why because smiling and laughter release the happy chemicals serotonin & endorphins.  And it is the movement of the muscles in your face that triggers the brain into this release.
    A smile uses 53 muscles in your face and babies can smile moments after their birth.  It take longer to learn to frown.
    So smile and be happy.
I recently read this wonderful quote, but for the life of me can’t remember where.  The quote is, “If you are unhappy, move.  Because if you were meant to stay in one place, you would have roots not feet.”  I think that is brilliant and although it may sound simple, it really sums thing up for me.
The fact is, if you are unhappy with your job, leave and find another or start your own business.  If you are unhappy with the city you live in, leave and find another city.  If you are unhappy with the people that surround you, leave and find some new friends and make new acquaintances.  If you are unhappy with the path your life is taking, leave that path and find another.
Just remember this one fact, when you do leave, you take yourself with you.  So if your attitude sucked at the company and that was the underlaying cause of your unhappiness, no matter which company you go to, you will be unhappy unless you change your attitude.
So that it for this episode.  Thanks for listening.  It has been great chatting with you today and look forward to doing so again in the next episode.
Again it would be great if you would go over to Apple iTunes and leave us a review.  5 Star reviews help the show to grow and get it out to more people.  So if you would, that would be great.
Thanks again for your time today and I look forward to chatting with you on the next episode where I will again share with you ideas, tips and tools to help you become the best version of yourself you could possibly be.
Have a great day.  And remember to be awesome today.
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