Hello Leader,

This Key helps you re-discover happiness with new eyes. Take a few moments to reflect on the 20 elements that lead to a happy and actualized life. Discover how you can help the people who work with you, your friends and family to be happier and which of these elements you might want to focus on for yourself. We’ll be glad to hear from you with your comments as well as your leadership development needs. Please feel free to forward the Key to friends, family and associates.

Aviv Shahar

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Happiness Matters!

Are you surrounded by happy people? Do you consider yourself a happy person?

“What’s the point; happiness is overrated,” you may think. Think again.
Happy people are more productive, more willing and collaborative, more creative and eager to take initiative and solve problems, have fewer sick days, attract happy customers, are nicer to be with, and make for a happier workplace.

Unhappiness sucks the life out of us. It brings stress, tiredness, sickness and ultimately kills us. Happy people make your life easier. They are more energizing to be around. They inspire you to be a better and happier person yourself.

What blind spots hinder happiness? Which of these hold you back?

  1. Dismissing the importance of happiness
  2. Misunderstanding the nature of happiness and its deeper levels
  3. Not recognizing what makes you happy
  4. Refusing to recognize the degree to which you are influenced by whether people around you are happy or unhappy
  5. The Absence of one of the 20 Elements of Happiness

We’ll spare you the immense body of scientific research and discovery about the value of happiness, but there is plenty of evidence in case you need scientific validation in order to be happy.

Below are 20 essential elements you will find with people who describe themselves as happy. If you consider yourself a happy person, chances are many of these are already present in your life. If you would describe yourself as unhappy, this can help you identify the elements that are absent in your life. You can then choose to cultivate and develop these elements if you decide it’s important to increase your happiness.

The happiness elements

Read through each of the 20 elements. Reflect on how you are doing with each of them to get a sense of your happiness profile. Grade yourself on a scale of 0 to 5 with each element: 5 represents a sense of being very fulfilled and feeling that this describes your situation very well and 0 represents the total absence of this statement in your life.

The Happiness Profile

  1. Relationships: You find open communication in enriching relationships.
  2. Meaning: You enjoy and find meaning in your work and in what you do with your time.
  3. Intimacy: You enjoy a rich and satisfying engagement with another person.
  4. Curiosity: You are interested in new things, and passionate about new knowledge and experience.
  5. Contribution: You make a difference where you are; you help people.
  6. Trust: You have someone who trusts you and believes in you.
  7. Resilience: You have been able to bounce back, to recover from setbacks.
  8. Freedom: You choose what you want to do, and where, when and with whom you want to do it.
  9. Family: You are close with your family; you stay in touch and support each other.
  10. Health: You make healthy choices, eat healthy and feel fit.
  11. Laughter: You see the humorous side of life and you enjoy a good laugh.
  12. Optimism: You see problems as temporary and focus on positive outcomes.
  13. Productive: You are productive; you take action and accomplish what you set out to do.
  14. Legacy: You are able to pass on value and knowledge to your children and/or other people.
  15. Physical: You exercise and regularly engage in physical activity.
  16. Integrity: You keep promises; you are as good as your word and act on your values.
  17. Respect: You have high self-esteem; you keep your self-respect.
  18. Saying No: You are able to say no without feeling guilt.
  19. Supportive Environment: You organize your environment to support what you do.
  20. Grateful: You feel grateful for what you have and for what you are able to do.

Here is a grading system to tally your happiness scale:
90-100: You are outstandingly happy and fulfilled.
80-90: You are very happy and positive about life.
70-80: You are happy and bring a positive perspective most of the time.
60-70: You are positive and happy more often than not but there a few areas where you experience unhappiness.
50-60: You are often not sure if you are happy or not, fulfilled or not.
40-50: You are more often unhappy than you are happy.
30-40: You are experiencing difficulty and little happiness at this time.
Below 30 – You need to take action, to make changes. You need to act now. Find in the list above the one element in which you can effect an immediate change. Take action about it now without delay!

What about money?

Having money doesn’t make you happy as much as its absence makes you unhappy. Money can help with many of the items above but is not a guarantee by itself. Money cannot buy integrity or open and authentic relationships.


One more reflection: consider the topography versus weather systems of happiness. Everyone experiences setbacks – an illness, a death in the family, financial reversals, estrangements from family or divorce, all of which may result in situational struggles or even depression. These are the weather systems of life which come and go. More permanent than the weather system is the topography, the lay of the land you create in your life as a result of your choices, habits, and inner formation. The 20 elements above can help you create topography of happiness, one that can then withstand any challenging weather system passing through.


  1. You are ultimately in charge of your inner state. Take responsibility for your happiness in life and at work.
  2. Have a forensic approach – discover what makes you happy and what makes you unhappy in life and at work. Fashion your life to reduce unhappiness and build the elements of happiness. First be diagnostic about it and then take action.
  3. Gather around you happy, high energy, positive people. They will energize you; help you stay fresh, vibrant and positive.
  4. You spend many hours at work. Make it a happy place! Conspire with your team to make your workplace happy. You want to feel as energized when you think about Monday morning as you do thinking about Saturday.
  5. Managers, next time you are faced with a hiring opportunity, how about adding to your hiring interview the following two questions: How would you rate yourself on the 1 to 10 scale of happiness: 10 being very fulfilled and happy and zero being depressed, sad, not wanting to get out of bed?

You can then follow it with this: Tell me about 5 things that make you happy. After asking 10 people these two questions you will get a good sense of what these reveal about candidates. As a rule of thumb, unless you have a very good reason, don’t hire someone who grades themselves on 1-to-10 happiness scale at 6 or below. Why would you want to bring unhappy energy to your team? Both unhappiness and happiness are infectious.

Happiness matters. Focus now on the happiness elements important for you and take action! It’s now your turn. Turn the key. Be your own leader.

© Aviv Shahar

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