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Economic Challenges

Unlocking Happiness and Well-Being: A Conversation with Ashish Kothari

Join us on this illuminating episode of Joy of Living as our guest, Ashish Kothari delves into the profound aspects of happiness and well-being. In a world filled with complexities and constant change, Ashish guides us through the Sunflower Model—a transformative approach comprising nine practices that can truly light up your life.

Discover how Ashish’s work extends to various companies, including giants like Trivium Packaging and TMOK, where the pursuit of happiness is recognized as a key driver of human performance and business success. Learn why fostering happiness is about creating a positive workplace and nurturing creativity and innovation.

In this engaging conversation, we explore the importance of mindfulness, habit formation, and the profound impact of happiness on our daily lives. Join us as we uncover strategies to help individuals and organizations unlock their full potential and embrace the joy of living.

Why invest in happiness?

Show Notes:

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[10.58] The Global Challenge of Today

  • Many of us are feeling overwhelmed by the consequences of our own success.
  • Despite experiencing unprecedented prosperity, we find ourselves consuming more than ever before.
  • Paradoxically, this excessive consumption has not led to increased happiness; we are often stressed and discontent.
  • We’ve managed to conquer many of the external threats that once plagued us, only to create new internal challenges. The top three causes of death now include cancer, heart disease, and stress-related illnesses.
  • Our world is more interconnected than it has ever been, yet an increasing number of people are experiencing loneliness.
  • A staggering 60% of Americans report feeling lonely.
  • Remarkably, we can accomplish tasks in a fraction of the time it once took us.
  • This newfound efficiency should grant us the luxury of more leisure, but instead, we find ourselves busier than ever.
  • We are currently facing crises on multiple fronts, and this is the problem we aim to address through our work.

[15.39] Unraveling the Reasons for Our Modern Busyness

  • To understand why our lives have become more hectic than ever before, I embarked on a quest to unravel the paradoxes within three distinct realms.
  • Firstly, I sought answers within the realm of spirituality.
  • Secondly, I delved into psychology and neuroscience in search of insights.
  • Finally, I turned to the rich traditions of philosophy for further illumination.
  • When we assemble the pieces of this puzzle, I’d like to share a perspective to consider with you.
  • Our species has developed remarkable brains that excel at making predictions throughout our evolutionary journey spanning millions of years. These predictions primarily served the purpose of keeping us safe, rather than ensuring our happiness.

[17.05] The Amygdala’s Hijack

  • Our brains are wired with a natural inclination towards negativity, a phenomenon often referred to as the “negativity bias.”
  • This predisposition has both its advantages and disadvantages.
  • One downside is that our brain’s ability to detect and react to threats doesn’t discriminate between physical dangers and psychological stressors.
  • During an amygdala hijack, our bodies become flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones.
  • Our attention becomes fixated on the perceived threat, causing everything else around it to blur into obscurity.
  • We lose sight of the broader context and magnify the significance of the perceived danger.
  • Now, envision this process happening repeatedly, perhaps 8 to 10 times, due to the increasing complexity of our external environment.
  • This is the core issue at the heart of our modern crisis: we are continuously hardwired for fear.
  • We find ourselves struggling to exert control over a world outside of us, a world that often appears beyond our grasp.

[23.29] Taking Charge of What You Can Control

  • You hold the power to control and master your inner world.
  • Consider this: as you watch us, where do you perceive Barry and me? On your computer screen, right?
  • Light from the screen reflects into your retina, forming a tiny image.
  • When you hear our voices, it’s because sound waves emanate from your headphones.
  • The reason it all makes sense is because we collectively understand English. But who is interpreting these words?
  • Think about this: when you touch someone, where do they feel your touch? Everything we experience, we experience within ourselves.
  • You are the architect of every sensation and emotion within you.
  • Given that we construct our own experiences, why not choose happiness instead?
  • The transformation you seek begins within you.
  • We are immersed in knowledge, yet we yearn for practical application.

[35.40] The Sunflower Model: Illuminating Your Life

  • The Sunflower Model consists of nine practices designed to brighten your life.
  • In life, we often have the choice to focus on our shadows or turn toward the sun.
  • For a deeper understanding of these practices, you can explore them in the book “Hardwired for Happiness.”
  • Our aim wasn’t just to add more knowledge with another book; rather, we aspired to assist a billion people in integrating these practices into their lives.
  • To achieve this goal, we turned to the science of habit formation.
  • This led us to create the Rewire program, which features 30-35 minute micro-practices.
  • These practices are carefully crafted to help you make positive changes in your life.
  • Mindfulness, one of the key components, involves paying deliberate attention to the present moment with a specific intention.

[46.03] Transforming Various Companies

  • We are proud to be working with a diverse range of companies, such as Trivium Packaging, a packaging giant with a market value of 2.5 billion dollars.
  • Additionally, we’re collaborating with TMOK, one of the largest dairy companies.
  • Our services also extend to companies like Crocs, where we aim to unlock the full potential of flourishing.
  • It’s crucial to recognize that the data is abundantly clear: happiness is not just a pleasant sentiment; it directly impacts human performance.
  • Companies that prioritize the well-being and happiness of their employees tend to experience higher shareholder returns and increased profitability.
  • Consider this: when do you find yourself most creative and innovative? Often, it’s when you’re feeling happy.
  • As leaders of these companies, it falls upon us to ensure that our employees are given the opportunity to flourish and thrive.

What’s your most fervent desire?

My fervent desire in my lifetime and beyond to help a billion people to rewrite themselves for happiness.

Insider Tips:

According to the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department, nearly one out of every five (18%) veterans will be women by 2040. Women represent the fastest-growing population in the military and veteran communities, and the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) recognized a need to address their unique challenges.

WWP founded the Women Warriors Initiative in 2021 and published its first women-focused report to understand WWP women warriors’ experiences and needs. The 2023 Women Warriors Report reveals unique challenges women veterans face, identifying six in particular.

Topics Covered:

  • Tracy, what is the Women Warriors Initiative? When and why was it created?
  • Tracy, what were the key takeaways from this year’s Women Warriors Report?
  • Danielle, as a women veteran, have you experienced these challenges personally?
  • Tracy, how is Wounded Warrior Project helping to tackle these challenges?
  • Danielle, where can viewers go for more information or to support Wounded Warrior Project?

For more information, please visit:  

Important Links:

About Ashish Kothari

Ashish Kothari is an executive coach, author, consultant and founder of Happiness Squad, a company focused on helping individuals and organizations unleash the power of happiness and well-being to achieve their full potential. Ashish’s transformational approach, which he covers in his book “Hardwired for Happiness”, is interdisciplinary and integrates learnings across spiritual wisdom traditions, philosophy, positive psychology, neuroscience and organizational development. Prior to starting Happiness Squad, Ashish Kothari was a partner at the global management consulting company, McKinsey & Company and spend over two decades helping thousands of leaders succeed by building new mindsets and capabilities.