happiness is a skill, not an emotion

Buddha’s core teaching, the Dhammapada, opens as follows:

What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.

The central thesis of Matthieu Ricard’s Happiness (2006) is that happiness is not an emotion, but a skill that can be learned and developed. It is, he says, ‘a way of interpreting the world’.

Matthieu Ricard has a PhD in biology from the Pasteur Institute and spent the last thirty-odd years as a Buddhist monk, and the last decade as the French interpreter to the Dalai Lama. He is one of a group of scientists who have been collaborating with the Dalai Lama to explore the commonalities between the teachings of Buddhism and the findings of modern science as to how emotions emerge in the mind and can be managed. Continue reading

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ozengo’s productivity principles

Zen is not commonly associated with productivity. However, as a western buddhist working in a large organisation I was able to draw on the clarity, simplicity and integrity that  characterise zen in refining my work habits. Other sources of inspiration over the years were stephen covey’s seven habits of highly effective people (1989) and david allen’s how to get things done – the art of stress-free productivity (2001).

The list below shows what works for me – some steps, strategies and workarounds I have developed for tackling complex projects.

articulate your vision

  • think big, describe what your dream looks like, where you want to be in five, ten years’ time
  • do not let your thinking be constrained by current practices, resource constraints or technical difficulies at this point
  • once you are satisfied with the vision you have articulated, embrace it and and start living accordingly

translate your vision into a broad plan

  • identify what needs to happen for your vision to become a reality
  • start grouping these change areas into domains (for example, research, skills or product development, strategic alliances)
  • identify opportunities for learning and collaboration for each of these domains (for example, online research, formal study, finding a mentor, informal networking)
  • do a ‘skills audit’: can you do this by yourself or within your current team configuration?
  • identify your personal supports: who is already on your side; with whom can you share your progress and frustrations?
  • talk to people – they may come up with great suggestions or point out a ‘blind spot’ in your thinking
  • develop an indicative timeline and costing
  • remember the saying: ‘a vision without action is a daydream; action without a vision a nightmare’

Continue reading