The thing to do that immediately boosts your happiness

Today was a glorious day here in Geneva: sunny, spring-like temperatures and fresh green all around me. I’m a total sucker for this new life sprouting out of the soil, trees and bushes and so I took a number of photos.

Gosh, it’s SO easy nowadays….when I was a kid there were still these films that had to be developed…oops, I’m digressing.

In the park opposite of where I live, I saw this art installation, which was erected a couple of years ago in recognition of Nelson Mandela and his promotion of peace.

I pass this thing basically every day. Today I went into the installation, looked up and took a photo. And took another one when I was a few metres away from it.


You would not believe that we’re looking at the same thing – when looking at the resulting photos.

Same thing – looking completely different.

And there was my inspiration for my weekly blog!

How we look at things

We see, hear, say and experience a plethora of things every single day, right? Well, most of us at least.

And every single moment we have a choice to make:

Am I being appreciative or satisfied or do I decide to look at it with dissatisfaction and misery?

Let me give you an example: We can get up in the morning and it’s raining. To make even worse (for some): it’s a Monday. So, how are you going on about that?

 Are you telling yourself what a miserable start into the week this is and how the bloody rain will ruin your day? You might get wet on the way to the office or at least you got to take the umbrella. What a nuisance.

OR do you wake up, notice it’s raining  - well, never mind, guess the soil and the plants needed some water, and you can appreciate that you have a job to go to.

This, by the way, has nothing to do with “well, at least you have a job” (so, telling the other person to not complain), but rather with really feeling grateful for where you are in life, this day, this morning. And focusing on those aspects of the situation that serves you, rather than pulling yourself down.

Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Let’s have a look at those pictures of the art installation again. I could argue that to me, it is round when I look up. To someone else, standing some metres away, it is a square.

Who’s right?

We both are. From where we’re standing. Because this is all we can see at this moment, unless we move. Shift or change our perspective.

Taking this to real life again: How many times have you had an argument with a colleague, your kids or your partner about something, where you both absolutely insist about being right?

I can definitely answer this one with a resounding YES.

Basically there are two different situations that can happen from there: 

1. The FACT scenario

There could obviously be a scenario where someone simply claims a “fact” and you believe that this is not true. Easy solution: google it. Even for more complex question outside of history dates or geography (popular topics with my son) you can find a plethora of questions answered there. So instead of arguing about I or get angry (about your righteous conversation partner), become curious together and look it up. Facts are normally not a matter of perspective – how they can be interpreted however, can be.

Here’s an example: The average temperature in Geneva in March is 11 degrees. From whatever perspective – this is the fact (well, now, at this rate it might be 15 in some years). How we feel about it, is a completely different matter. For me that’s already quite pleasant  - for my best friend who loves the heat, this is close to freezing. And we’re both right.

2. The OPINION/VIEW scenario

Well, this is where it’s getting more complicated. Or what we see with our eyes. I vividly remember a conversation, what am I saying, rather these plenty of conversations about a friggin suitcase (would you believe it) and its colour.

The first time it went like: “Honey, can you please get the big green suitcase up from the cellar for my upcoming trip?” Me: “Huh? I guess you mean the brown one, right?” This conversation brought us even in the realm of RAL colours as we could for the life of us not agree whether this was brown or green….and still looking at the same thing. Again – from where we stood, we were both right (well, my partner insisted that his eye for colour is better than mine….I found it hard to see the green, however with different light I could get how it could be seen as green.

Do we really understand each other?

These examples don’t really leave a dent in a relationship when being discussed. We might even agree to disagree (often helps big time). When it comes to more fundamental or important questions though, many of us have a tendency of wanting to be right as it might have a great or even massive influence on our life  - at least in our mind – in case we were not right.

When we’re having discussions about what is the next most important, strategic step for the team or the company or when we’re talking with our partner about topics like what to spend money for or how important it is if the kids don’t have a mobile phone in their room at night, this changes.

Then we’re fighting with passion for what we believe is right, find 100’s of reasons why and forget in the process to listen. Or to understand, where the other person is coming from.

Listening is one the nicest things we can do for anyone. Including ourselves. In that case it’s listening to our inner voice – that’s a topic for another blog.

Listening, and I mean REALLY listening to others is an art. One which most people do not master, particularly in a passionate discussion. If you’re keen on learning it go here. I wrote a whole article about it.

The whole reason for listening is to understand the perspective of the other person. And with that I mean not just hearing what the other person says, but taking it in, digesting it, asking clarifying questions, so that you can grasp all aspects of the other person’s reality.

Aligning realities

Ah, that’s a key word: reality. As we all have our own. If we believe we can look through anybody else’s eyes just like that (oh, I understand), we’re sorely mistaken. We might have a rough idea, that’s about all though.

Recently someone whose work I really admire (Judith Glaser) said that “understanding is, standing under the same reality”, which I really liked.

This is what we can achieve if we follow the path described above: listen, ask, grasp, understand. Do not make assumptions or interpret what’s being said….rather let them know how you understood what was being said, also known as mirroring back. “I understood now that you said…..”. And very quickly you’ll know if you got it right.

My experience is that I often find out that I’m on the same page as the other person, despite the fact that it looked and sounded so different in the beginning. We can only find that out though if we know how and from where someone looks at a situation, person or whatever it is we’re discussing.

The thing to do to boost happiness

So we can come into the same reality step by step and notice that everything can have so many perspectives, depending on where we are. And still it’s the same thing. Like the installation.

Which represents the prison cell Mandela spent years in. I can look at it from a distance and get really sad about the injustice and how he had so little space and the installation makes this so visible. Or I can go in the middle, look up and see glossy representatives of beautiful sun rays on a blue sky and enjoy the view.

It’s simply a matter of perspective and how I decide to look at things:I Can I see the joy that a situation or person (or thing) brings me or do I decide to approach with low energy and grumpiness? Am I upbeat or destructive?

It’s our choice. And I guarantee if you go down the first path, you will boost your happiness instantly.

Someone said to me once: ”We see the world how we are, not how it is”. In the beginning it confused me, and then, after paying more attention to it, I understood. Whatever we believe from where we look at the world, becomes true. For us.

And that might differ wildly between you and me. Still, we’ll both be right. Even if we share a lot in our life, mine might be happy, yours not.

So, what perspective will you take?

©Claudia Hesse




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