Friday Jan 09, 2009

Happiness is a healthy social network

Once again New Scientist justifies my subscription - a fascinating article on how your friends' friends can affect your mood such as happiness. In other words, not just your immediate circle of friends.

The tips provided were:

Five tips for a healthier social network

  1. Choose your friends carefully.
  2. Choose which of your existing friends you spend the most time with. For example, hang out with people who are upbeat, or avoid couch potatoes.
  3. Join a club whose members you would like to emulate (running, healthy cooking), and socialise with them.
  4. If you are with people whose emotional state or behaviours you could do without, try to avoid the natural inclination to mimic their facial expressions and postures.
  5. Be aware at all times of your susceptibility to social influence - and remember that being a social animal is mostly a good thing.

The article questions whether Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point argument that social epidemics are dependent on certain key individuals is correct - though my recall of that book is that connectors are one of the key individuals who by definition have wide social networks. The key point of this article is that the effect spans several degrees of separation.

The comments on the article are well worth reading too including the slightly concerning consequence of the above advice which means undesirable people (eg depressives) could end up isolated.

Some of the happiest times I've had are hanging out with dance friends. Find the right music, venue and dance partner and your cares and woes are soon forgotten. However, that joy extends beyond the dance itself - it's infectious.

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

Just finished reading "Goal-Free Living"

Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW! by Stephen M. ShapiroJust finished reading "Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW!" by Stephen M. Shapiro. Recommended reading for anyone who has that lurking suspicion that there's more to life than what they're doing.

I enjoyed reading the book and it was a refreshingly intelligent contrast to the more usual business/life/self-help books. Similar to the latter there's an element of "this worked for me, it can work for you too!" - Stephen has done very well as a motivational speaker - but he does document many people's goal-free successes - are we're talking happiness, not necessarily money.

There are some excellent reviews and interviews available so I won't duplicate that effort, check:

My personal take was one of identification. I'm a little wary of how we tend to identify ourselves when it suits us, much like horoscopes, however it rang true for me in a number of places. The book lists eight 'secrets' and then fleshes them out with details such as the how and why. While you could just read the secrets and put the book back on the shelf it's worthwhile reading about the people Stephen interviewed as he worked on the book. As copied from the Amazon Editorial Review ...

  1. Use a compass, not a map
  2. Have a sense of direction, and then let yourself wander and try new things on the way to fulfilling your aspirations.
  3. Trust that you are never lost
  4. Every seemingly wrong turn is an opportunity to learn and experience new things.
  5. Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly
  6. While blindly pursuing our goals, we often miss unexpected and wonderful possibilities.
  7. Want what you have
  8. Measure your life by your own yardstick and appreciate who you are, what you do, and what you have . . . now.
  9. Seek out adventure
  10. Treat your life like the one-time-only journey it is and revel in new and different experiences.
  11. Become a people magnet
  12. Constantly seek, build, and nurture relationships with new people so that you always have the support and camaraderie of others.
  13. Embrace your limits
  14. Transform your inadequacies and boundaries into unique qualities you can use to your advantage.
  15. Remain detached
  16. Focus on the present, act with a commitment to the future, and avoid worrying about how things will turn out.

I particularly like 1 (use a compass not a map) and 4 (want what you have).

I was reminded of a BBC 1 documentary and accompanying book called "In Search of Happiness" by Angus Deayton. Superficially it was about finding the strangest things that people do that make them happy and make jokes about them. More fundamentally it illustrated that happiness is subjective and not necessarily the goal-orientated, financial, career-enhancing future we so often seek.

Note that 'goal-free' doesn't mean 'goal-less'. Read the book for more details.

In the meantime it is probably worth mentioning that I've taken a management role at Sun. Still working in the same area (Solaris Engineering) but understanding how the organisation and people work rather than the kernel. How goal-free is that?

Don't get me started on SMART goals. That's another blog entry ...




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