Lessons from the last 7 days

With Marlene, one of the many new friends I made at #WorldEscapeDay.
With Marlene, one of many new friends I made at #WorldEscapeDay.

In a recent post, I made reference to the last few days forming the best week of my life so far. Quite a grand statement to make, and often the sort made in the sheer excitement of a ‘buzzy moment’ (what positive psychologists might call a ‘hedonic moment’).

For example, I might say – “Wow, that was the best pizza I’ve ever had!” This might be something I’d say having done a particularly intense gym workout, not having eaten in several hours, and not having eaten pizza in six months. The combined effect producing a euphoric moment, which would lead me to make such a profound statement. Also known as – getting carried away in the moment. We’re all guilty of that :)

However, reflecting on the ‘best week of my life’ statement (as, I assure you, I have done on each of the last few consecutive days) – I am in no doubt that this is, in fact, true. It really has been. Rather than a getting-carried-in-the-moment sort of feeling, this comes from a deeper sense of knowing. (That said, I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been a good few hedonic buzzes in these last few days too!).

So let me try to break down the key ingredients of this magical week, and draw upon some useful learnings:

1. Spending time with people
… can be a really good thing. As Dalai Lama keeps repeating, we are a social animal. Regardless of skin colour, height, weight, male, female – we are all human with human brains. This transcends everything else. We all need each other, full stop.

2. Spending time with the right people
…can be a really, really good thing. Someone once said you are the product of the 5 people you hang around with the most. I have spent a lot of time with likeminded people in this last week. The word ‘likeminded’ is key here. I may be in a small group of people who all are deeply passionate about football; this feels pretty good, there’s a common interest here. Common interests are great, and we do need them – they bring us together, and they help move our interactions along and help foster connection. All good stuff.

However, common beliefs and values…wow, way more powerful. I may have a particular friend who has many similar interests to me, but our beliefs and values might differ. Sharing common beliefs and values beats everything else and creates an incredibly powerful connection.

3. Doing more things of personal enjoyment
Seems like a no-brainer; doing more of what you enjoy will make you feel better. No sh*t sherlock. It seems so obvious. But then I think back to my days of Monday to Friday work in an office job, and I used to whittle large parts of my weekend away lounging about in front of the television. Get out, do stuff. It doesn’t even have to be stuff outside, you can stay inside and do stuff. The key word is do. And stuff. Just do it!

4. Using strengths
All of us have a unique and specific set of strengths. Quite often, the meaning of ‘a strength’ can seem obvious, but I have also found it’s been a little distorted and so needs clearing up. I consider a strength as something you are not only good at, but also enjoy doing (and vica versa). For example, communicating (e.g. presenting) may be something you’re really good at, perhaps due to lots of practise over some time. However, you may still despise doing it with a vengeance. In my view, this is not a strength. Love it + Good at it = Strength.

5. More instances of flow
Ah, my favourite word in the world at the moment. Experience more flow, and you’re onto a winner. Using your strengths helps a lot with this. As, I’ve found, does spending time with the right people. (In fact, all of these points tends to overlap in some way). The theory of flow says that when you are conducting an activity with just the right amount of challenge and using just the right amount of skills (neither too difficult nor too hard in either case), this creates the best conditions for flow. Whack on some form of meaning and purpose there (that is individual to you), and bam! Flow will come to you in leaps and bounds. You’ll lose yourself in the activity, time will fly by, and you’ll derive huge enjoyment from it.

6.’Authentic’ self
Arguably, this is the most key ingredient of my magical week of all. All of the above 5 points contribute towards this and, paradoxically, being your most authentic self contributes to those 5 points also. i.e. When being more of your authentic self, you will naturally be using your strengths, be doing what you love, be experiencing more flow, be spending your time with people (and with the right people!).

And there is no feeling better than being your most authentic self. Unfortunately, our lives and environments and patterns of thought beat this ‘authentic self’ out of us over time, so then we have to find it again. As such, we spend much of our lives (e.g. at work) being our ‘adaptive’ selves.

What could have gone better?
As magical as it was, no week will ever be perfect. Here are a couple of things which could have gone better:

1. Sleep
With my schedule particularly busy (or, rather, busier than I am used to) I had a lot to fit in. On top of that, I was enjoying my waking hours so much, and that was getting in the way somewhat. As such, my sleep hasn’t been ideal – in terms of sticking to a rigid patterns (i.e. sleeping and waking at set times) nor getting the right amount I need each night.

2. Meditation (mindfulness)
Equally, I didn’t do my mindfulness every day. With late nights and early rises (e.g. sleeping at midnight on Sunday morning and then being up at 5.30), going to the park was going to be tricky. I did do my mindfulness on the train a couple of times, which was a good thing – better than not at all – but my daily mindfulness routine was certainly disrupted overall.

In summary: overall, I had enough ‘filled pots’ contributing to my happiness that the net effect was pretty good. With a couple of extra pots filled (e.g. the ‘sleep’ and ‘mindfulness’ pots), this could have helped even more with my overall mental state.

My week in brief
18th: Induction Day at UEL (for MAPPCP course)
Saturday 19th: 2nd Day at UEL
Sunday 20th: 3rd Day at UEL
Monday 21st: “Creating a happier world” – ‘Action For Happiness’ event with Dalai Lama and others (Lyceum Theatre); Sir Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz, for launch of SAF’s new book ‘Leading’ (Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre)
Tuesday 22nd: Weekly ‘Escape Tribe’ session (Escape The City HQ)
Wednesday 23rd: ‘The Happy Startup School’ online session (home!)
Thursday 24th: ‘World Escape Day: London’ with Escape The City (The Proud Archivist)

Fun times with new friends of the MAPPCP variety. (Photo credit: Lindsay Rutland)
Fun times with new friends of the MAPPCP variety. (Photo credit: Lindsay Rutland)

This post is dedicated to all of you who have made this week so awesome. You know who you are. xo

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