I was listening to a podcast interview with Adam Robinson the other day and something he said really struck me.

He mentioned an epiphany that he got last year and that he converted in his new personal mantra.

“Learn to focus on the needs of others over needs of the self.”

This one thing helped him overcome depression and be more happy in life, but also more successful.

I think this could pretty well be the biggest secret to happiness in life.

Focussing on others

Why does this lead to happiness?

This question is partly address in the interview.

It’s probably easier to start from the reverse statement.

What leads to unhappiness?

First of all, we approach this from a personal point of view. There might be external sources causing your unhappiness that we won’t address here. But in our modern society, most unhappiness comes from within.

People are unhappy with their job, relationship, lifestyle, friends and so on. But if you take a step back and compare our lives with the generations before us, people never had it any better than now.

The reality is that depressions and feelings of unhappiness often start from the way we think and what is the focus of our thoughts. If you focus mainly on the self, then it becomes easy to get angry at others when you feel treated unfairly. When everything revolves around yourself, you can take offense on many things,

When everything revolves around yourself, you can take offense on many things. Someone else gets promoted at work: you feel being passed. Someone cuts you off in traffic: you feel attacked. Your partner needs to work overtime or wants to go out with some friends: you feel neglected. The list goes on and on. And all these little frustrations in life add up on a pile that becomes bigger and bigger and can lead to unhappiness, depression and burnout.

It’s not only frustration that can lead to unhappiness. There is also fear, feelings of un-accomplishment, anxiety, …

How can we counter this?

Adam tries to make his main focus point to connect to all people he meets and create delight for others.

Imagine doing this yourself. What if in any situation, you focus on creating delight for the other people in your environment?

This means, that at work, you focus on helping others as much as possible and making them feel appreciated. In traffic, you focus on the experience of other drivers instead of yourself, in your relationship, you focus on pleasing your partner, and so on.

There are a few things that will happen. Most people will return your kindness, which immediately improves your quality of life. Secondly, helping others will give you a feeling of satisfaction. And thirdly, since you are so focused on your mission to delight others, you are not thinking about yourself and having negative thoughts.

A systematic approach

Okay, so this all sounds very well in theory but how do we make this actually work? I’m at the same place where you are, I think it can be a great idea but I still have to implement it in my own life.

As mentioned in my previous post, to succeed in anything we need to create a system.

Ground Rules

First of all, there are some ground rules:

  • ignore your skepticism. Being nice never hurt anyone. Your fear of being taken advantage of is just one of those things that are making you unhappy.
  • don’t expect miracles from day one. It’s a mental shift and it will take time to make it a habit.
  • don’t expect anything in return. Helping others and expecting something back is counter-productive. The goal is to achieve happiness in life, not rewards for good behavior.

Journaling

To create lasting change, you need to evaluate yourself, your thoughts, your behavior on a regular basis.

Probably the easiest way to do this is through journaling.

In the morning, start with writing down your goals of the day. Think of some scenarios for the day where you can adjust your behavior and focus on delighting others.

In the evening, write down to good moments of the day and those where you still can improve. Make sure that you actually think about how to improve yourself and try it the very next day. Writing things down is not enough, you also need to take action and adjust your behavior.

The art of giving

One way to learn how to focus on the delight of others is to learn the art of gift giving.

It’s a good way to force your mind into thinking about other people’s needs.

Most of us have friends and family and they all have birthdays. This is an excellent excuse to try to find the perfect gift for them.

It doesn’t have to be expensive at all, it could be a nice card with a very personal text. But spend time to find that one card or gift that really fits their personality.

The road ahead

This is a system that is also new to me and I know I will fail a lot before I will succeed. There will be many fears and doubts and moments of needing to step out of my comfort zone, but the reward is big enough to go for it.

Join me in this journey and share your results!