10 gifts for that special someone (you)

Are you happy?

You’re probably busy. And stressed. And have a full life. But happy?

“2300 years ago, Aristotle concluded that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness. Much has changed since Aristotle’s time. And yet…we do not understand what happiness is any better than Aristotle did, and as for learning how to attain that blessed condition, one could argue we have made no progress at all.”

Happiness starts with you. (If you’re not happy, how can you make others happy?) So here are 10 investments you can make in yourself. 10 inexpensive ways to help you create, grow, learn, have fun, and connect.

1. Write.

Working on your writing is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Writing helps you clarify your thinking, is an outlet for expressing your ideas and opinions, and is one of the best ways to shape your reputation and give you access to opportunities.

Whether it’s with a moleskin or a MacAir, find a comfortable cafe and start writing more.

2. Curl up with a good book.

Reading Like a Writer” will give you a new appreciation for reading as well as writing. Reading is a way to learn, to escape, or to simply admire how language can be used by a master craftsperson.

Try some beautifully-crafted short stories like those in “Olive Kitteridge” or “Interpreter of Maladies” or in Hemingway’s complete collection.

3. Subscribe to TED talks. 

Perhaps one of the simplest yet most wondrous ways to learn is to watch TED talks. Every weekday, for free, you can get a world-class presentation delivered to your phone.

Where else could you hear from Seth Godin on driving change and Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce? Or, in a few engaging minutes, learn about stunning advances in computer viruses and bio-engineering? Or be inspired by an opera singer who wouldn’t let a double lung transplant stop her from singing?

Watch every talk or let serendipity be your guide. Being in the middle of such a confluence of fields and perspectives is where great ideas come from.

4. Speak up. 

Public speaking, like writing, is a valuable and eminently learnable skill. Improving your speaking is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your career.

Two excellent books – “Presentation Zen” on visual design and “Resonate” on storytelling – will be enough to differentiate your talks from almost everyone else’s.

5. Eat well.

Good food, well-made, has always been one of life’s joys. But Michael Pollan can teach you to think about – and appreciate – where food comes from. “Omnivore’s Dilemma”  and “In Defense of Food” give you a balanced and informed way to think about food.

Far from constraining your choices, Pollan opens up your eyes to what good food can and should be like.

6. Move! (And get a fitibit to help you.) 

Sometimes we’re so fixated on gym memberships and particular routines that we forget the basics. Simple things like going for your annual physical or just walking more may be the best things you can do.

Get a fitbit (a small pedometer) and see how that little bit of feedback throughout the day can help you dramatically increase how much you walk.

7. Schedule time to play.

Why do weekly meetings fit so easily in your calendar but not a weekly date with your partner? Or play time with your kids?

Pull out your calendar and block off time for something different – a movie or a night of stories or a jigsaw puzzle. Having playtime in your life makes all the other hours richer, too.

8. Give thanks.

Sometimes the best way for you to feel good is to recognize someone for something they’ve done.

A hand-written letter, now more than ever, shows you care. And the response you’ll get will make you feel wonderful.

9. Give back.

Don’t just hope the world gets better. Put hope in action. It’s easier than ever to give and also to get feedback on the difference you’re making.

Become part of a movement like KivaWaterAid, and Donors Choose. Donations to these organizations are truly gifts that keep on giving.

10. Finally, the best present…is being present.

One of the best gifts I ever received was a small booklet titled “be free where you are.”

The book made me aware that I was always looking ahead or looking behind. And how I was missing the only moment I was truly alive – the present moment.

From now on, I don’t want expensive stuff. I want to invest in my happiness instead.

Life is a verb. Go live it.

About John Stepper

Helping organizations create a more collaborative culture – and helping individuals access a better career and life – by spreading the practice of Working Out Loud.
This entry was posted in Self awareness and improvement, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to 10 gifts for that special someone (you)

  1. Great blog post. Much appreciated!

  2. QlinArt says:

    Very good article. That aspect in our lives is often overlooked independently of the time of year. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece on ourselves, as a reminder. Enjoy the holidays.

  3. ADAM MAYER says:

    Great top 10 for happiness John!

    My list would also include: surround yourself with positive people & encourage those in need.

  4. Aakriti Agarwal says:

    Beautiful post John and it comes at the perfect time! Wishing you and your family a new year filled with happiness.

  5. Bobby Corpus says:

    I have been reading your well written blog posts for some time now. I’m looking for an opportunity to hear you speak. (gift item #4).

    I have learned a lot from this post. This is a great framework upon which I can build my resolutions this new year.

    Happy New Year!

  6. Pingback: Goals vs. Resolutions | OpSpark, Inc.

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  8. Balakrishan Shenoy says:

    Excellent Blog. Thanks John. And wish you a Happy New Year.

  9. Balakrishan Shenoy says:

    John – A short note to say thanks – I got my fitbit yesterday and I am loving it 🙂

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