Being grateful and becoming happy

In his Ted talk Brother David Steindl-Rast advices us to be greatful in order to become happy. I watched this talk the first time a bit under a year ago and applied its lessons. Each morning I would get up and just decide to be grateful, even without a specific reason, for just being here and having this opportunity called life. This kind of “self-deception” helped me feel good and become happy. Feeling grateful made me look at things with a new perspective, helping me find reasons for my pre-existing gratefulness, thus inducing happiness. Pretty quickly it was easy to find reasons for being grateful everywhere: having a beautiful scenery on my way to work, having a cup of warm coffee after getting in from the cold winter weather and so on. Through gratefulness I was feeling happy, not the other way around.

Recently I noticed having forgotten this habit of starting the day with being grateful. I would be a bit down, occasionally moody and not feeling really happy. Now reflecting on this, I viewed the Ted talk again and will again concentrate on being grateful and through that becoming happy.

Enjoying single moments, coming as they are, has helped me to feel happy. I encourage you to try it too. Just be grateful and you will see, how the smallest of things become reasons for being grateful and bring you happiness. Be grateful for each opportunity to do whatever you want. As my university professor Esa Saarinen used to say (I suppose he still does): “Give the chance an opportunity.”

When a chance knocks on your door, be grateful for having been offered such a chance to do something. If you decide to seize the chance, to give it an opportunity, be grateful for having the strength and courage to grasp it, to try something. If you grasp the opportunity and fail in your pursuits, be grateful for the lessons you will have received. Be proud of taking action and exposing yourself.  If you seize an opportunity and succeed, be grateful for the fruits of your work and that of other’s who have helped you succeed. No matter where you end up in your endeavors, be grateful and you will become happy.

Be grateful, grasp chances and become happy. Try it, give this thought an opportunity.

My elevator pitch

Being inspired by the blog challenge from Living Your Legend, I have created my own elevator pitch. Although it is a bit longer than a regular elevator ride, I also hope it to be more informative, more tangible and more entertaining.

The three questions I want to answer with my elevator talk are: What am I building? What do I care about? What am I excited about?

I am building a person, who is active in his own small town community, helping organize great events and letting others experience the small everyday moments of happiness. I am building a person who helps people learn and grow as persons.

I care about people and their well-being. Seeing someone smile, hearing them say thank you, even in their own head, makes me happy, makes me want to do more for them. Knowing that I do matter, that I can help make a difference, keeps me going further. I also care about myself, knowing that I have to help myself before being able to help others.

I am excited about sports, about nature, about good books, about writing. I am excited about hearing people’s wild, even crazy ideas and making them come true. Unfortunately I have lost some of this characteristic after my university times, but I can still feel the flame and hope to bring it again to its full force. Being unconventional, unpredictable and uncommonly good is an exciting and challenging ideal.

Reading the lines above, I would formulate the short version of my elevator pitch as follows: “I want to keep my own town community alive and bring its people joy through sports. The sincere joy on peoples’ faces makes me happy, and helping people learn will enable them to grow into even better persons, personalities and citizens. My playful attitude and integrity should serve me well in doing this.”

 

I am proud of trying, even if I do not succeed

First I have a confession to make. I started my blog as part of this year’s blog challenge from Living Your Legend. Another confession is that I have already fallen behind on the schedule, not having been writing every day as prescribed. Nevertheless, I am proud of having taken this step to start trying to write on a regular basis and also eventually participating and engaging in discussions. I have never been the first to say my opinion in a discussion, not to mention starting a one. Therefore this blog is for me a step forward in taking part and contributing to the community and society.

I feel do feel strongly about some societal issues and feel that I might have a lot to give in tis area. Let’s see if this blog is only the first in a long series leading to a deeper participation of social activity. At least I am already participating more in the activities of my local sports club, actually considering volunteering as the club treasurer for 2016, something I have done before. Yet, now in a new country this would be another small step in building a new social network and establishing friendships. It is also a way to try my wings in a sports-related environment and on working with children as an instructor. Who knows, maybe I will find there a new passion.

After becoming acquainted with Living Your Legend, for about two months ago, I have read many testimonies where people have told about their procrastination and hesitation to seek their passion and change the direction of their lives when they have been dissatisfied, even miserable. These testimonies also contain success stories, where people have started to look for their true passion, and already that process has made them happier and feeling better about themselves. Now I have also started my search, partially with the help of this blog that I wish to use as a tool for documenting and reflecting my thoughts and feelings.

At the moment I am proud of taking the step towards my dream and passion, whatever they may be. Just actively looking for them is on its own something worth doing, since I have a clear goal and meaning for the actions I take. I hope that those of you, unsure of their direction in life, will also take the step towards finding your passion and purpose. The trip will be worth it. Not trying is failure without alternatives. Trying and not succeeding is not failure, just success in a different form as initially envisioned.

On showing and experiencing gratitude

I presume that everyone thanks someone at least once a day for something. Living a bit under two years in central Europe now, I have learned a culture of saying “please” and “thank you” even in the most mundane occasions and actions. In the beginning it caught my attention, since such frequent expression of gratitude is not prevalent in my home country. However, during the last six months it has become a second nature to me and I have noted how it makes the social interaction much pleasurable and smoother, when people thank each other for almost everything.*

I also get thanked a lot everyday, be it a quick response to an email, taking five minutes to help a colleague spontaneously, or just giving a simple yes or no answer to a question, presented as passing a colleague in the hallway. I believe and hope that people thank me for my sincerity and integrity, for being honest and standing true to my word. That is something I was taught as a child, something that is the main motive and motor for many of my actions.

Sincere gratitude and sincerely helping others make each day a great one.

 

*Someone might argue that saying thank you for everything reduces the value of the expression and the idea of gratitude. I would argue, however, that people expressing their gratitude for nearly everything are brought up to actually be grateful for everything they get and also express it openly. Therefore I do believe that this custom is an expression of sincere gratitude and helps foster social interaction, making it also easier to approach people and ask them for help.

Networking, food and relationships

Why does “networking” bother me?

Building our professional network is often talked about and the importance of networks has multiple reasons. With good networks you can find help to many problems, shorter and more uncertain careers require networks for seamless transition between jobs and networks also help you to improve your skill set and stay competitive on the job market.

Although the many benefits of wide social networks and networking are obvious, I have always found the word “networking” somewhat repulsive. To me networking often sounds like the act of trying to get to exchange a few words with as many people as possible during a cocktail party and trying to make your face stick in their minds, the final goal being the broadening of the circle of people who could possibly help you. What bothers me here, is approaching people as tools, as means to fulfill my own goals. But that is hardly a basis for building any long-lasting relationships, especially if those people are to help you sometime in the future. I personally prefer a more Kantian approach, where I get to know a person because I take genuine interest in him as a person. A second aspect is possible cooperation in some field, but even then it is about me helping the other person or doing something together, not trying to extract value from him.

Networking is often done informally, meaning that it takes place alongside some other activity, like lunch or sports. In business, networking quite naturally happens over a cup of coffee or lunch. Until recently I was never really comfortable with networking over lunch. Somehow the idea of getting to know a person over lunch was unappealing, but just a few weeks ago I understood what was bothering me.

Networking vs. relationship building

Networking is about building relationships, but I would call networking as the first phase in building and maintaining a relationship, the initial test drive, if you will. For me networking is the initial meeting with another person, nothing more. It’s about establishing a new node. If that succeeds I have “networked”, but from there on I have to build a relationship.

When meeting a new person, it is natural to be more alert than among friends. The discussion starts from very general topics and the parties seek to find a common denominator. Doing something this over lunch is for me very unnatural. Sharing food is actually a somewhat intimate social interaction, even if both parties are having their own dedicated meal. Nevertheless, the symbolic act of sharing a meal indicates, at least for me, an existing bond between the persons. Now how am I supposed to feel comfortable or secure sharing a meal with a stranger? When my primal instincts tell me not to do it, any deeper relationship building can hardly take place. On the other hand, if I already know the other person, sharing food is a good way to deepen the relationship.

Three stages of sharing food for relationship building

When meeting a stranger, one question is, if there is any basis for a deeper relationship. If sharing a lunch on the very first meeting, it might be that both parties would after the initial sentences rather concentrate on their food and have the meeting over as soon as possible. If this is the case, the sharing of food is even more awkward and, if both have the intent of finishing their meal, the whole meeting can be a disaster. Therefore something less intimate and flexible would be my first choice for the first meeting, say, a cup of coffee. Over a coffee cup you can get to know a person and still have the opportunity to prolong the meeting, if both feel like it. After the initial networking phase, or node creation, sharing lunch would be a good option for deepening the relationship. Between strangers and casual acceptances I would see these two alternatives as good, complementary ways for building your social network.

When with friends, I often lover to cook a good meal from scratch. It is very relaxing and strengthens a relationship, when you cook your meal from the beginning and share it with friends. During cooking you also have time to discuss anything you like, and the atmosphere is allowing for even very deep discussions.  You can also adjust the length of the meeting by choosing an appropriate dish to be cooked.

Summary

Networking is only the first step in building relationships, and networking should take place on the basis of being genuinely interested in people and wanting to get to know them and help them. Food and the many rituals associated with it are a great way to broaden your social network and deepen your relationships. Just pick the right ritual based on the relationship. In short:

  • sip coffee with strangers and build new nodes
  • enjoy lunch with acquaintances and deepen the relationships
  • cook with friends and foster your companionships

 

 

My blog: learn from others and be a zero

Dear reader,

After enough thinking I got into doing and started my own blog. The purpose of my blog is to get me in the habit of writing regularly. I believe that regularly writing down and publishing thoughts and ideas helps to more objectively evaluate and cultivate them. I am hoping to engage in good discussion with you and learning from you and your thoughts.

Another purpose of this blog is provide me with a platform for publishing fiction. I like to write and on occasion and come up with a short story every once in a while. I figured that getting them out to the public would help me improve my writing.

These two goals obviously require a large contribution from other people, meaning that I also have to participate actively in the discussions on other blogs and forums to have people a reason to notice me. For that I have no definite plan yet, rather I am taking a step at a time and seeing where I end up.

At the moment I am just “aiming to be a zero”, as Chris Hadfield puts it in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, and aspiring to become “a plus one”.

Best regards

Mikko