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16 Things I Learned from Taking the #100happydays Challenge

16 Things I Learned from Taking the #100happydays Challenge

When I decided I wanted to do this Happy Days challenge, I didn’t realise how hard it would be. The challenge was to photograph yourself during a happy moment. This was a daily task to be completed for 100 consecutive days. Doing anything for this long, short of breathing and sleeping, is quite a challenge. There were a couple of times I forgot to take a picture. There were a few times I forgot about it completely until about 11pm. But, I did it. And I’m really proud that I completed it. Some of what I learned was things I thought I already knew, at least intellectually… but doing this challenge made them real. Now I know for sure. It’s probably one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done, and reinforces that I am indeed “enough”.

1. Happiness is a choice

Whether you choose to look for happiness or not, it’s definitely there, waiting to be discovered.

2. Happiness can be found anywhere…

…as long as you search for it. Sometimes, I get the impression that making an effort to be happy somehow isn’t as “good” as it just naturally happening spontaneously. This forced effort somehow makes happiness feel like it’s worth less. Well, that’s bullsh*t.

3. Happiness is about appreciation / gratefulness

This was an interesting realisation. I’ve read lots about happiness, and this is one of the things that often came up. Until I actually did this, I didn’t appreciate how important it was. I realised there was no reason I couldn’t be happy with what I have now, while still pursuing what I wanted.

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4. This challenge was awesome – and fun

Being happy is awesome. Being happy is fun. Who would have thought that? I’m hoping you can sense the sarcasm there. Participating in the Happy Days challenge will let you experience happiness in a whole new light.

5. Find things to make you happy

Go out of your way and consciously search for activities that make you happy. This quest makes it no less meaningful whatsoever.

6. The smallest things can make you happy

Sometimes it was as simple as having dinner with my parents. Another time it was a funny Twitter account. Even just acknowledging that I was doing this challenge made me happy. The smallest things eventually add up to big results.

7. I have more of an opportunity to make others happy

Lots of my pictures were about me. I really enjoy making other people happy. Looking back at my 100 days, I realised I’ve got the opportunity to do it a lot more. The challenge doesn’t need to stop at day 101.

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8. Your happiness is your responsibility

Nobody owes you happiness. You need to earn it. It doesn’t usually happen by accident. Sometimes it does, of course, but do you really want serendipity on its own to be responsible for your happiness?

9. I missed the challenge when I stopped doing it

It was still on my mind after I’d completed the 100 Happy Days; which, I suppose, was kind of the point of this challenge.

10. It wasn’t easy

Some days I wondered, “What in the world will I choose for my happy moment?” It’s called the #100happydays challenge though. To complete it, you needed to be persistent. That’s why 71% of people didn’t complete it. They cited “not having enough time” as the main reason. If you don’t have time to be happy, what do you have time for?

11. I cared less about being judged

I was happy and that’s what really matters. Why would I need to pay attention to what other’s said? Why should I be affected by what someone else thought? On day 44, I posted a picture of a cool t-shirt that my dad bought me. Someone I knew said to me, “You must be running out of things to be happy about, if that’s all you could come up with.” This really annoyed me. Why does anyone have the right to question what makes me happy? That feeling lasted about 5 minutes – then I just started feeling proud. I was proud of the fact that I was succeeding at this challenge and making my life better. I was proud that this other person was doing nothing of the sort.

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12. There are no rules, only beliefs

There are no rules about what makes me happy, you happy, or anybody else happy. I also did two happy moments on day 7, and one on day 104. Why? Because I’m a rebellious lunatic, that’s why. Joking aside, just because there are “rules”, doesn’t mean you have to follow them blindly. Unfortunately, that’s what most people do. Do you want to be most people?

13. A wide range of things make me happy

Friends, writing, driving, Jack Daniel’s honey, socks, myself, reading, playing “I spy”, juggling, basketball, food, weights, moving out, clothes, climbing, roller coasters, irony, compliments, gratitude, friends, cooking, myself… the list just goes on and on. It really helps when you take the time to tabulate what makes you happy.

14. It can be a huge event, or something infinitesimally small

From my best friend visiting from China, to some cool socks – happiness is everywhere. Don’t dismiss anything, big or small.

15. Your happiness will inspire others to be happy

Two other people in my team at work started participating in this 100 Day challenge whilst I was. I like to think I had something to do with that. Maybe I did inspire them? Who else could I inspire? A variety of people were interested in the challenge. They asked me lots of questions about it, but never did anything about it themselves. What would you do?

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16. It’s easy to get out of the habit of recognising and appreciating happiness

I added this point in about three weeks after day 100. I’m not taking the time every single day to appreciate a moment of happiness. Everyone has stuff going on in their lives, but every time I asked myself the question “If I don’t have time to be happy, what do I have time for?” it really put things into perspective. Most matters simply don’t matter – being happy does.

To sum it all up…

Is there really anything more important in the world than being happy? For me, no. Nothing else seems to matter if I’m not happy. There are some people who’ll read this and think I’m selfish. They would be wrong. One of the things I love most of all is developing, helping, mentoring, coaching and empowering other people to be happy. It’s probably the most fulfilling thing I do. I do it because it makes me happy, and; hopefully, makes them happy too.

Because I’ve been on a journey to discover who I am and what makes me happy, I’m in the perfect position to help other people do that. Discovering this attribute has been the best and most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. Why wouldn’t I want to help other people have that same experience?

So, I did the #100happydays challenge for me. However, if I inspire even one of you to take the challenge, or think about your own happiness in a different light, I’ll be happy. If I actually inspire someone to do something about it, I’ll be ecstatic.

Featured photo credit: Jessica Tam via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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