18:17
Arbejdsglaede Live

Srikumar Rao: Plug into your hard-wired happiness

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Srikumar Rao says we spend most of our lives learning to be unhappy, even as we strive for happiness. At Arbejdsglaede Live! 2009, he teaches us how to break free of the "I'd be happy if ..." mental model, and embrace our hard-wired happiness.

- Happiness teacher
Executive, educator, writer and life coach Srikumar S. Rao asks, "Are you ready to succeed?" -- and in his famous course "Creativity and Personal Mastery," he teaches his students how to do so. Full bio

I have a vision for each one of you,
00:17
and the vision I have for you
00:20
is that when you wake up in the morning,
00:22
your blood is singing at the thought
of being who you are
00:24
and doing what you do;
00:28
that as you go through the day,
00:30
you can literally sink
to your knees in gratitude
00:31
at the tremendous good fortune
that's been bestowed on you;
00:35
that as you go through the day,
00:39
you become radiantly alive several times.
00:41
And if your life isn't like that,
00:47
I'd like to humbly suggest
that you're wasting your life.
00:51
A life is too short to be wasted.
00:54
So what I propose to do
in the next 17 minutes --
00:57
I've used up one minute already --
01:00
is to give you a set of powerful tools
01:03
which can get you started on being there.
01:06
Is that of interest to you?
01:10
Audience: Yes.
01:11
Srikumar Rao: OK.
01:12
This is a conference on happiness,
01:14
but even if it wasn't
a conference on happiness,
01:16
would it be right if I said
that in some way, shape, fashion or form,
01:18
you're devoting your entire life
01:23
to being happy?
01:25
Everything you do -- your job, family,
children, relationships, whatever --
01:27
is a quest for happiness.
01:32
Correct?
01:34
I'd like you to think about the following:
01:35
What do you have to get
01:39
in order to be happy?
01:42
We're just going to spend
a minute on this.
01:45
What do you have to get
in order to be happy?
01:47
Anybody, quick?
01:52
When I conduct this experiment,
a bunch of stuff comes up:
01:54
vast wealth, trophy spouse, good health,
lots of travel, time, etc, etc, etc.
01:57
Right now, if you were to think about it,
02:04
you probably have a list
of, "Here's what I need to get
02:06
in order to be happy."
02:09
I would like you to consider this:
02:12
anything that you can get --
02:14
let me repeat that -- anything
you can get, you can un-get.
02:17
Is that correct?
02:20
So, vast wealth can make you happy.
Vast wealth can disappear tomorrow.
02:21
A number of people in the financial sector
have discovered this already.
02:25
So whatever you get
that can make you happy
02:30
can go away.
02:34
Where does that leave you?
02:35
Not a very nice place, right?
02:37
I have a different proposition
to suggest to you.
02:39
What I have to suggest to you
02:42
is that there is nothing
that you have to get, do or be
02:43
in order to be happy.
02:48
Let me repeat that:
02:50
there is nothing that you have to get,
do or be in order to be happy.
02:51
In fact, happiness is your innate nature.
02:55
It is hardwired into you.
It is part of your DNA.
02:58
You cannot not be happy.
03:03
Now, all of you are very polite,
03:05
and in some of the other forums
I speak in, such as top business schools,
03:07
they're not so polite.
03:12
And invariably, somebody articulates
what many of you are thinking,
03:13
which is: "If happiness
is my innate nature,
03:17
how come I am not experiencing it?
03:21
How come I am experiencing my life sucks?"
03:23
(Laughter)
03:26
And the answer to that
is actually very simple.
03:28
You have spent your entire life
03:32
learning to be unhappy.
03:36
Let me repeat that: you have spent
your entire life learning to be unhappy.
03:40
And the way we learn to be unhappy
03:46
is by buying into
a particular mental model.
03:49
A mental model is a notion we have
that this is the way the world works.
03:52
All of us have mental models,
we've got dozens of mental models.
03:55
We've got mental models
on how to find a job,
03:58
how to get ahead at work,
how to pick a restaurant to eat at,
04:01
how to have a movie
to go to ... dozens of them.
04:04
The problem isn't
that we have mental models.
04:07
The problem is that we don't know
that we have mental models.
04:09
We think this is the way the world works.
04:12
And the more we invest in a mental model,
04:14
the more it appears that this, in fact,
is the way the world works.
04:16
But it isn't: it's just a mental model,
04:20
and the mental model we have
that we buy into so strongly
04:22
is that we have to get something
so we can do something
04:26
so we can be something.
04:30
Like, we have to get a great deal of money
so we can travel to exotic places
04:31
so we can be happy.
04:35
We have to be in a relationship
so we can have great sex
04:38
so we can be happy.
04:41
All of this is a variation
of the if-then model.
04:43
And the if-then model is:
04:48
if this happens,
04:50
then we will be happy.
04:52
If I were to get a better job,
if I were to get more money,
04:56
if my boss would have a heart attack,
04:59
if only I was married,
if only my wife would leave me --
05:01
(Laughter)
05:07
if only I had children,
05:08
if my children would grow up
and go to college ...
05:09
It doesn't matter what it is.
05:13
The whole notion is if this happens,
05:15
then I will be happy.
05:18
And right now, the only thing
that's different
05:21
between the persons in this audience
05:24
is what is the particular "if"
that you are focusing on?
05:27
And the only thing that's different
05:30
between you now
and where you were 10 years ago
05:32
is what is the particular "if"
that you were focusing on?
05:34
Think about your life 10 years ago.
05:38
Spend a minute doing that.
05:41
Ten years ago, if you remember clearly,
05:43
there were certain things you wanted.
05:46
Is that correct?
05:47
Odds are pretty good
05:49
that many of those things you wanted
10 years ago you now have.
05:51
Is that correct?
05:54
Where has that left you?
05:56
In exactly the same place, right?
06:00
What we don't realize
is the model itself is flawed.
06:03
The if-then model --
"If this happens I will be happy" --
06:07
the model itself is flawed.
06:10
But instead of recognizing
that it is the model itself that's flawed,
06:13
what we do is spend
enormous amounts of time
06:17
changing the "if."
06:20
"Oh, well, I thought if I became
CEO it would help,
06:23
but now I realize it's not
that I want to become a CEO.
06:26
I want to become the billionaire CEO,
06:29
and then I will be happy."
06:31
You've got your own variation on that.
06:34
But it's the model itself that's flawed,
not what you put on the "if" side
06:36
of the equation.
06:41
I can demonstrate that to you.
06:42
Can any of you recall a time
06:44
when you were confronted with a scene
of such spectacular beauty
06:46
that it took you outside of yourself
into a place of great serenity?
06:50
Maybe a rainbow, a mountain range,
06:56
a valley, the sea.
06:58
And if you remember that --
raise your hands if you could.
07:00
Virtually all of you could, right?
07:03
Have you ever wondered why that happened?
07:05
The reason that happened is that somehow,
07:08
for some reason,
07:12
at that instant,
07:14
you accepted the universe
exactly as it was.
07:17
You didn't say,
07:22
"That's a beautiful rainbow,
but it's kind of off to the left,
07:23
and if I could move it
200 yards to the right,
07:26
it would be ever so much more beautiful."
07:29
(Laughter)
07:31
You didn't say,
"That's a beautiful valley,
07:33
but the tree in the foreground
has too many crooked branches.
07:35
So if you gave me
a chainsaw and 20 minutes,
07:38
I'd make it ever so much better."
07:40
Oh no, the rainbow off-center
07:42
was just fine.
07:44
The tree with its crooked branches
07:45
was just fine.
07:47
And the moment you accepted
the universe just as it was,
07:48
your habitual-wanting self dropped away,
07:53
and the happiness which is
your innate nature surfaced,
07:56
and you felt it.
08:00
And I know you felt it because now,
08:01
even now after all those years,
08:04
you can still remember it.
08:06
The problem is that your life right now,
08:10
with all of the problems that you have --
08:13
more precisely, all of the problems
that you think you have --
08:15
is equally perfect.
08:20
But you do not accept it.
08:23
In fact, you're spending all your time
08:25
striving with might and main
to make it different.
08:28
You are not accepting it.
08:32
And when you're not accepting it,
08:35
you're buying into the if-then model:
08:37
if this happens, then I will be happy.
08:39
And it's the model itself that is flawed.
08:42
So let me show you how
you can get out of that,
08:47
or at least you can begin the steps
towards getting out of that.
08:49
I'd like to share with you that action.
08:53
We all live our lives because we want
to achieve something, correct?
08:56
You know, we are here
and we want to have something.
08:59
Alex wants to have
a successful conference.
09:02
You know, many of you want to have
great programs for your companies
09:05
that are very successful.
09:09
You want to progress, have more money,
all of that, is that correct?
09:10
Each of those is an outcome;
you would like something to happen.
09:17
Now, I'd like you to think
about the following:
09:21
actions are within your control,
09:24
not entirely, but to a large extent.
09:25
The outcome is completely
out of your control.
09:28
OK?
09:31
Actions are within your control.
09:32
The outcome is completely
outside your control.
09:34
Have any of you recognized
that when you have a goal
09:36
and you start to work towards it,
09:39
some of the time
you don't achieve your goal,
09:41
and some of the time what you get
09:43
is the exact opposite of what you wanted?
09:45
Has that happened to any of you?
09:47
Like there was a friend of mine
who said, "Gee, you know,
09:50
I have not been paying
a lot of attention to my wife,
09:53
and this has to change."
09:57
So the next time
we went on a business trip,
09:58
he bought a very expensive dress for her.
10:00
And this was his way of showing,
you know, I care for you,
10:03
and nice things would happen.
10:06
And when he presented the gift
to his wife, her immediate reaction was,
10:08
"After 20 years of marriage,
you don't know my size?"
10:13
(Laughter)
10:16
"And furthermore, don't you know
I never wear this kind of thing?"
10:18
And the next thing you know,
he had a full-blown marital spat.
10:23
Has that happened to any of you?
10:27
You've taken action
for a particular outcome
10:28
and the outcome you got
was the exact opposite
10:31
of what you wanted?
10:33
Happens all the time.
10:35
Well, we live in a world
where what we think of,
10:37
what we invest in,
10:41
is the outcome.
10:42
We define our life in the following way:
10:44
here I am, here is where I want to go,
10:46
these are the steps I have to take
in order to get from where I am
10:48
to where I want to go,
10:52
and if I succeed, life is wonderful.
10:53
And if I don't, then I have failed,
10:56
life is no good, life sucks.
11:00
True? False?
11:04
That is how we live.
11:06
We invest in the outcome,
11:07
and as I've just pointed out,
11:09
the outcome is frequently different
from what we would like,
11:11
and sometimes the diametric opposite
of what we would like.
11:15
You invest in the outcome
and you are guaranteed to have
11:18
more than your share of frustration, angst
11:22
and all the rest of the stuff
that makes life suck.
11:24
There is an alternative.
11:28
And the alternative is that you do not
invest in the outcome,
11:29
you invest in the process.
11:33
And the best way to describe that
is a quote by John Wooden.
11:37
I don't know how many of you
are familiar with John Wooden.
11:41
He's very well-known in the United States
11:44
and certainly among basketball fans.
11:46
He's the only person ever to make
the basketball Hall of Fame
11:49
both as a player and as a coach.
11:52
And what he told his entering team --
11:55
he led UCLA to an unprecedented number
of victories and finals in the NCAA --
11:57
and what he used to tell any new team
is he never spoke about winning.
12:03
He always said, "When it's over
and you look in the mirror,
12:09
did you do the best
that you were capable of?
12:14
And if you did the best
that you were capable of,
12:17
the score doesn't matter.
12:20
But I would suspect that if you did
the best that you were capable of,
12:22
you will find the score to your liking."
12:26
That is investing in a process.
12:29
What we do is the exact opposite.
12:33
We invest in the outcome.
12:35
This is what I want -- oh,
I want it so desperately,
12:37
because if I get it I will be happy.
12:40
And you try with might and main,
to do whatever you can,
12:42
but you are always focusing
on, "This is the outcome."
12:46
Now, focusing on the outcome is fine.
12:50
It gives you direction.
12:52
Investing in the outcome means
12:53
that you make the achievement
of a particular outcome
12:56
dependent for your well-being.
13:01
And that is a surefire recipe for failure.
13:03
What you can do is something else.
13:07
You can invest in the process.
13:09
That is, once you have determined,
here is where I am,
13:13
here is where I want to be,
and that's fine,
13:16
you focus on the outcome only
to the extent that it gives you direction,
13:18
and then you invest yourself
completely in the process.
13:22
You say, here are the steps
you want to take,
13:26
and you put everything into it.
13:28
And if you succeed, wonderful.
13:30
And if you don't succeed,
13:34
still wonderful,
13:36
because now you have a new starting point,
and from that new starting point,
13:40
you select another outcome and keep going.
13:43
And when you do that, you will find
that every day is a blast.
13:46
Let me give you an example.
13:50
And if you have children -- raise
your hands if you have children.
13:52
Have you ever seen
a small child learn to walk?
13:55
What happens, and this happens
typically between 11 and 13 months,
13:58
is the child gets up
and she sees everybody walking,
14:01
she wants to walk, she gets up,
she falls down, she starts crying
14:05
and momma runs up and comforts her,
kisses the place, makes it well.
14:09
She tries again, falls down,
mommy runs up again.
14:13
After some time, mommy feels tired
and no longer runs up
14:16
and the child stops crying,
14:19
and then she gets up, takes a step
14:21
and doesn't fall down,
and then she takes another,
14:23
and a beautiful smile comes on her face.
14:26
And very soon, generally within 24 hours,
she's walking all over the place,
14:28
upsetting your living room arrangements.
14:32
And you know you've gone
to a new stage of parenting.
14:34
Right?
14:37
Now, imagine what would happen
14:38
if each time the child fell,
14:40
she would say, "Oh my God, I failed again.
14:44
I'm never going to learn to walk."
14:47
And you have to get counseling for her
14:50
to help her deal with
feelings of inadequacy
14:52
and not being able to achieve
and fail yet again.
14:55
How long do you think it would take her
to learn to walk if you had to do that,
14:59
if every three times she fell down,
you had to get a counselor
15:03
to counsel her and so on?
15:06
Sounds funny, doesn't it?
15:08
But that is exactly what we're doing.
15:10
What the child is doing
is focusing on the process.
15:12
She's investing in the process,
15:16
not in the outcome.
15:19
What we do is the exact opposite.
15:22
As we grow up, we lose the ability
to invest in the process,
15:25
we start investing in the outcome.
15:29
By definition the outcome
is outside of our control,
15:31
and if that's where we spend
all of our emotional energy,
15:35
we are going to get drained as we do.
15:37
But if, on the other hand, we said,
15:40
"Here is the outcome,
I am going to invest in the process
15:42
and give it every single bit I could,"
15:45
every day is a blast,
15:48
and you're well on your way to achieving
the vision that I outlined to you.
15:50
The question that I get all the time,
is people say, "Professor Rao,
15:55
but nothing makes me passionate."
15:58
So I say, "OK, what would?"
16:01
And they invariably come up with,
you know, here is a list of things.
16:02
Here's my job and here's how much it pays,
16:06
this is the kind of person my boss is,
16:08
the kind of people my colleagues are,
16:10
and here's how my customers are,
here's how much I travel,
16:12
here's how big my office is,
how deep the carpeting is,
16:15
how many windows I have --
16:17
a bunch of parameters.
16:19
And what I tell them is what
I want to share with you,
16:21
because all of that stuff --
first of all, it doesn't exist.
16:24
But second, even if it did
and you were plugged into it,
16:27
it would not take more than six months
16:30
for you to be the same sorry,
miserable self there as you are now,
16:32
because passion exists inside you.
16:36
It does not exist in the job.
16:40
And if you don't find a way
to ignite it within you
16:43
right where you are,
16:46
you are not going to find it outside.
16:48
But if you do find a way
to ignite it where you are,
16:52
then you will find that the external world
16:56
rearranges itself
16:59
to accommodate the new person
that you are becoming.
17:03
And as you do that, you will find
that miracles happen on a regular basis.
17:07
Persons come up
whom you're delighted to meet.
17:11
New people enter your life.
17:14
It's just a breeze,
17:15
because all you do in your life
is you take journeys.
17:18
You came here to this conference;
you went on a journey.
17:21
You hang around the water cooler,
17:25
talking about how terrible
your place of work is;
17:26
you went on a journey.
17:29
You watch "Desperate Housewives,"
you go on a journey.
17:30
You go on a journey
17:33
where 40-something women are having
affairs with 19-something gardeners
17:35
while the husbands
are playing around with models.
17:38
All you do is go on journeys.
17:41
There's nothing wrong with that,
but just ask yourself,
17:43
"Is this a journey I want to take?
17:45
Does this take me to a place
I want to spend time?"
17:48
And if you start doing that,
17:52
you will find that your life changes.
17:54
The kind of people you meet,
the things you talk about,
17:56
the movies you go to,
the books you read --
17:59
everything changes.
18:01
And you begin all of that
18:04
by focusing on the process.
18:07
Invest in the process, not in the outcome.
18:09
Thank you.
18:13

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About the Speaker:

Srikumar Rao - Happiness teacher
Executive, educator, writer and life coach Srikumar S. Rao asks, "Are you ready to succeed?" -- and in his famous course "Creativity and Personal Mastery," he teaches his students how to do so.

Why you should listen

Srikumar Rao was an executive at Warner Communications and McGraw-Hill before he created his celebrated MBA course, "Creativity and Personal Mastery." The course -- the only business school course that has its own alumni association -- shows students how to discover their unique purpose, creativity and happiness, through group work and a philosophical perspective. Its popularity has led to write-ups in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Business Week.

Rao is also an adviser to senior business executives, whom he helps find deeper meaning and engagement in their work. He's the author of Are You Ready to Succeed: Unconventional Strategies for Achieving Personal Mastery in Business and Life, and has been a contributing editor for Forbes. His latest book is titled Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful - No Matter What.

More profile about the speaker
Srikumar Rao | Speaker | TED.com