149 – Hacking Happiness | Ft. Penny Locaso

More than most, celebrated keynote speaker Penny Locaso understands the complexity of being human in today’s world. Her book, “Hacking Happiness” offers a compelling new view on what it means to be fulfilled both in professional and personal pursuits. Instead of viewing happiness as a by-product of events, Locaso’s work suggests that happiness is something to be sought and seized. To do this, we must first learn to recognize happiness in its most enduring form, and today’s chat delves into a detailed description of this priceless bounty.

Clear Picture of Success

Acknowledging the concept of happiness as a “polarizing” topic in our modern discourse, Locaso begins by exploring its fundamental position in our lives. She speaks on individual concepts of engagement and satisfaction, as one person’s dream is another’s nightmare. The author invites each of us to consider our own ideas of happiness, and whether they conform to the “standard” expectations of society. When we define what it means to be happy on our own terms, it becomes easier to translate these ideas into action every day.

Little Boxes

The most imposing obstacles to defining a life lived on our own terms are the expectations of others. Locaso draws from personal experiences in illustrating this idea. She speaks on once looking at life as something of a checklist, with boxes to be ticked off along the path to a happy ending. This type of thought process is widely facilitated by society, and is what leads so many people toward others’ visions of their happiness. She was able to move past this limited mindset by realizing that happiness is not an end state, but a consistent way of being.

Productivity is the Disease

The constant pressure to produce is one of our society’s all-encompassing ills. For generations we have attached productivity to happiness, and the results have been nothing short of disastrous. Encapsulating this concept, Locaso discusses the “hedonic treadmill” that can lead us on an endless path to nowhere. The pressure to produce typically demands that we validate that production with measurable progress toward the goal of happiness. When the short-term effect of that validation wears off, we are left where we started.

Stress Test

To demonstrate the toxic effects of viewing ourselves purely through our production, Locaso draws a parallel to the GDP of nations like Australia. A nation’s GDP is aimed at indicating its profit potential alone, without any regard for the health or satisfaction of its citizens. When a society’s profitability is its chief concern, its state of doing will always outweigh its state of being. She points to the ongoing COVID crisis, with certain high-GDP countries exhibiting poor performance in responding to the pandemic as well as the resulting societal instability.

The Foundations of Happiness

One of Locaso’s core contentions in her work is that we are in control of a substantial portion of our overall satisfaction. She estimates this share at 40 percent, and maximizing this slice of our lives takes a strong skillset in intentional adaptability. In her view, there are three pillars that uphold the idea. The first one she teaches is focus, the ability to block out distractions in a world designed to create them. The second is the courage to experiment, to take actions without the goal of immediate production. The third, perhaps most important, is to stimulate the curiosity that drives us toward the most fulfilled versions of ourselves.

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