I always enjoy learning from people who are really good at what they do and I'm very fortunate that there is no shortage of generous folks out there who are willing to share their life experiences with me. Guys like New York Times best-selling author, Dan Buettner, make it easy. They do all the research, travel the world, and wrap up all of their wisdom with a nice little red bow in the form of an easy-to-follow guide book.
Dan wrote The Blue Zones of Happiness. A Blueprint for a Better Life. He interviewed some of the happiest people from the happiest places on Earth and wrote down what he learned. He documented all the personal, professional, psychological, spiritual, environmental, and financial factors that play a major role in determining whether or not you're going to be content with your life. He also collaborated with other top happiness researchers (yes, there are actually happiness researchers out there) and complied a ton of potentially life-altering data for the human race.
Buettner says happiness pretty much boils down to four things: "A person needs 1) something to do, 2) someone to love, 3) something to give, and 4) something to look forward to." Think about it. If you can have each one of those things on a daily basis... that's a pretty productive and fulfilling day!
(Speaking of "something to give", My good friend Mike, author of 10 Things You Can Do To Have A Better Day, surprised me with a copy of Blue Zones as a gift right before I left for my annual sabbatical to Costa Rica. -A spot that Buettner discovered to be one of the happiest places on Earth. Probably why I've been coming back here for 18 years and now bringing my family along, too.)
Pick up a copy of Blue Zones for yourself to check out the rest of Dan's immense research and findings.
Below are a just a few parts of the book that stood out to me...
"In other words, instead of seeing a long, healthy life as a goal that required discipline, effort, and a prescribed routine, people in the blue zones found it occurred almost naturally; it flowed from their surroundings. In these places, it seemed, the healthy choice wasn't the deliberate choice, it was the unavoidable choice. Grains, greens, and beans- which many studies have linked to healthy, long lives- were the least expensive and most accessible foods in these places. People used time-honored recipes to make food tasty, and their kitchens were set up to allow fast and easy preparation. When friends and neighbors got together, they often shared the same healthy meals as part of their regular social activities. Being lonely wasn't an option. And in all of the Blue Zones, people had a vocabulary for their purpose in life. People knew why they woke up in the morning. They were able to describe their responsibilities, and they pursued their passions into their 10th decade. They lived not only long lives but also rich, happy ones." -Dan Buettner
"We now know that happiness is an essential part of functioning well, and that it gives a boost in well-being not only to individuals, but also to those around them, their communities, and their societies. Rather than being a luxury to be pursued only after we take care of the more important things in life, happiness is beneficial to everything else we desire: It aids our health and helps us live longer; it aids our social functioning and makes us better citizens; it helps us perform better at work; and it builds up resilience, which enables us to bounce back after setbacks and/or when bad events occur in our lives. The happier we are, the better we are for our friends and family, our workplaces, our communities, and our society as a whole." -Edward Diener
"Reshape your surroundings vs. depending on willpower. Stack the deck in your favor... your social network, your work environment, your house, and the way you spend your free time- Nudging your life towards greater health and well being." -Arnette Travis
"In countries like Costa Rica, social connections, family gatherings, and an ability to create happy moments and laugh at adversity seem to make up for a lack income. People don't get into the trap of overworking, overspending, and undersocializing. Costa Ricans are good at creating happy moments every day, with no need for special occasions." -Mariano Rojas
"Costa Rica's health care system works so well because it aims to keep people healthy in the first place. In the United States, incentives are aligned to drive up costs. Here, for years, the emphasis has been on the preventative health system, because, quite frankly, the objective of a good health care policy is for people not to get sick." -Jose Maria Figuere
"Teach life skills in school. American Schools tend to focus on metrics and testing for academic abilities such as language arts, science, and math. While these topics are important, the ability to think creatively and solve life's problems, get along with other people, and engage in civic life are just as important, perhaps even more so, for the happiness of the public. Schools almost completely ignore life skills, such as choosing the right job or the right mate- decisions that will determine your happiness as an adult more than anything else. How we feel is just as important as how we do in life, and that message can be conveyed through the school experience." -Bertha Barnes...
Hill advocates editing our space and winnowing our belongings to focus on what matters. "In an era of abundance, happiness is having just enough," Hill says. Not too much. Not too little. It's about cutting the extraneous so you can focus on the good stuff." - Not a bad mantra for the rest of our lives, too. -Graham Hill
"When we choose not to indulge the thought, it loses energy and fades. In other words, if we put the monkey in the cage, it will eventually go sit down....."
"If we can slow down our minds for long enough, and fully experience the present, we have a chance to actually observe our thoughts and control them, rather than letting them control us."
Know your purpose. As we've discovered in the happiest places, and in research from the experts, being invested in something greater than ourselves is fundamental to a richer, happier life.
"I don't believe that asking you to change your behavior does you much of a service: Most people forget, run out of discipline, or get bored just after just a few months. ...... Reshape your environment." -Dan Buettner
Marcello Pedalino, CFT, is the author of the new inspirational book on personal growth and development, Celebrate Life. He is an award-winning entrepreneur, lifestyle expert, and fitness trainer. He delivers dynamic keynote presentations to corporations and organizations across the country who need help making Energy Management and Work-Life balance a priority.