On Happiness, Gratitude And Accountability - In Memory of Jo Cox MP

Written by David Pullan

On Happiness, Gratitude And Accountability - In Memory of Jo Cox MP

I want to change tack from story telling this week and reflect on the nature of happiness.


In my life as a communication coach I am constantly struck by how often people want to have total control of the outcome of their communication. They see it as an exact science whereby if they say x, then y will happen. If they package a proposal in a certain way and deliver it just so, then as sure as night follows day they will win the contract they so deeply desire.


If this were the case then a) the world would be a very boring place in which to live, and b) I might start wondering if the people who achieve it had done the Hogwarts MBA and were employing a few dark arts. 


Thankfully it isn’t the case, and the outcome of your communication will always be subject to the personal views of others. Sure we can influence and motivate, but in the end the result is out of your control.


If you don’t accept this then unhappiness is there for the taking.


So how can you avoid this trap?


Well of course the answer is to take the Stoic line and control what you can control.


Inevitably a lot of this is about planning and commiting to your message and delivery. But I also believe it is about controlling your attitude, letting go of the need to control, and seeing others as ends in themselves and not a means to your happiness.


The first thing you can do, whether you are pitching for work, leading a change or motivating a team, is to let go of the need for specific outcomes. Allow for ambiguity. By all means set a vision for the future but don’t try to control the method of getting there. 


It’s also vital to be willing to be surprised if the end result is slightly different or even improved from the one you envisaged. Some of the best theatre directors I ever worked with were great at this, and some of the worst failed at it miserably.


The second skill I’d like to recommend is the attitude of gratitude; the skill of seeing others as a valuable and equal part of your world, and seeing yourself as an accountable player in the success or failure of any enterprise.


There are three questions you can usefully ask yourself every day.

  1. ‘What have I received from…?’
  2. ‘What have I given to…’
  3. ‘What troubles and difficulties have I caused?’

 In the run up to the EU referendum in the UK this Thursday I think a lot of our leaders could reflect on these things. 


I encourage you all to do the same in your daily lives.


In memory of Jo Cox MP (22 June 1974 – 16th June 2016)


photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/36728732@N08/27595408161">Poppy</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>








  • W B Yeats

    'Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.'