As a coach, I prefer to work on balance and fulfillment than on happiness,. The focused pursuit of the momentary elation we confuse with happiness can cause a lot of anxiety and stress.
Of course, we all love those fleeting moments when happy drugs (dopamine and serotonin) pump through our veins (making love or at the gym) and of course we want to feel more of this. That’s why advertisers spend billions into trying to make us believe that a “happy meal” or a new car will make us feel ecstatic. Happiness sells. However, these moments of elation are just that, moments.
Still, about 30 minutes into his most recent “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, Bill Gates, the world’s second-richest man, was asked two very personal questions. “Are you happy?” and “Through it all, what makes you happy?” His answers were not only wise but surprisingly affordable.
To the first question Bill Gates, 63, responded: “Yes! When I was in my 30s, I didn’t think people in their 60s were very smart or had much fun. Now I have had a counter-revelation. Ask me in 20 years and I will tell you how smart 80-year-olds are.”
To the second question, Gates said, “Some recently said that when your children are doing well it really is very special, and as a parent, I completely agree.
“Sometimes following through on commitments to yourself, like doing more exercise, also improves your happiness.”
1. Ditch your 20-year-old self and talk to your future self
There is no better way to gain a fresh perspective on any thorny problem than to speak to yourself in 20 years.
2. Follow through on your commitments
Nothing gives you a greater sense of your power than when you do what you’ve said you’ll do.
3. Give to others
Remember, “it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy,” according to TED talking monk, David Steindl-Rast.
4. Do more exercise
Exercise increases the level of your endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. It also limits the effect of stress on your brain and helps get your sleep patterns back to normal. Exercise gives you a focused activity that can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
5. Put love first
Gates’ observation that “when your children are doing well it is really very special,” makes perfect sense. One of the five greatest and most common regrets of the dying is “that I did not spend more time with the people who I loved.” Paired with regret most common among men, “that I wish I hadn’t spent so much time at the office,” and suddenly the “work-life balance” takes on a whole new urgency.
Read the full story I wrote about Bill Gates’s secrets to happiness for Forbes
Remy Blumenfeld is a creative life coach living in London. He empowers leaders to play the game of life with purpose, grace, and ease. Before training as a coach, he launched a TV Production company that created dozens of groundbreaking, TV shows.