The secret of happiness – Birds on the Blog

The secret of happiness

Andy CopeDid you know you can do a PhD in happiness? This week’s guest in The Extraordinary Business Book Club Andy Cope does – he’s been doing his for nearly 11 years now. The good news is that he’s done the work so you don’t have to.

Get ready to learn what people have been seeking for centuries: the secret of happiness.

How do you study happiness?

“My job as a researcher for 11 years has been to seek out happy people and follow them around, and then try and find out why they’re so happy.”

Why has it taken so long? One reason, says Andy, is the lack of happy people to study: “there’s not enough of them out there. I’m struggling to find them.”

And yet, actually, the secret of happiness – the subject of his PhD thesis and many others, and the top life goal of so many of us – is incredibly simple.

So what is the secret of happiness?

Are you ready?

This is important.

Here it is: the secret of happiness.

Andy discovered the secret in Tesco’s on Christmas Eve, while a row raged around him in the up-to-10-items checkout queue because a woman had 11 items in her basket: instead of accepting the frustration and embarrassment and stress of the moment, he made a conscious choice to be happy.

“I stood back, put my shoulders up right, and said, ‘Right, okay, here is me, and it’s Christmas Eve.’ I looked around at all the food, and I thought, ‘I’m lucky to live in the Western world, I’ve got a credit card, I can buy anything I want,’ and I thoroughly enjoyed that 20 minutes, and I was the only one in the queue who had, because that was the moment, for me, I realised, I can’t do anything about the queue at Tesco’s, but I can, with a little bit of mental dexterity and a little bit of effort, put a bit of effort into being a better version of me.”

Simply choose to be happy. Eleven years of PhD study, reams of scholarly research, nearly 50 years of personal experience (in his case and also in mine), and that’s what it comes down to.

It’s so simple it’s laughable.

It’s so profound, it makes you catch your breath.

“I describe it as a bit like your eyelashes. Everywhere you look, your eyelashes are there and you never see them, and everywhere you go, the choice to be positive and happy is there, but most people are just not exercising it.”

Andy now runs The Art of Brilliance, helping people in business, schools and communities be their best self.  His books, including The Art of Being Brilliant and The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence, are great examples of taking complex, important ideas and explaining them in ways that anyone can understand and, even more importantly, use. If you’re involved in communicating big ideas in an accessible way – as a writer or speaker – you’ll find lots of inspiring and practical tips in the podcast.

Choose to be happy

The question that set Andy off on the happiness journey was this: “Could you be happier even if nothing in the world around you changed?”

For him, the answer was, “Yes, actually I could.” And once he realised that, once YOU realise that, it’s obvious that while you might not be able to change the world to make your life better, you can choose to change your experience of the world.

As Andy puts it: “I’ve only just realized, approaching 50, that wherever I go, I’m there.”

Whether that’s a queue in Tesco or a tropical beach, there you are. How you choose to be, well, that’s entirely up to you.

For more Birds wisdom on happiness, see Lindy Asimus’s post on Dr William Glasser and Linda Mattacks on choosing your thoughts

About the Author Alison Jones

Alison is a book coach and publishing partner for businesses and organizations with something to say. She hosts the Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast.

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