Chip Conley’s new book, Emotional Equations, is an interesting look at how you make the case for EQ being a quantifiable predictor of personal happiness and business success rather than just a loose, “touchy feeley” concept that might or might not help you.    Mostly what I love about it so far (I’m not done reading yet) is that he delves into the nuances of specific emotions in such a way that I now question whether I ever had a very good handle on the self-awareness piece of EQ.  I’ve always thought I struggled with self-regulation but was pretty solid when it came to accurately labeling my emotions and being aware of having them.  Now I think I just didn’t have a very in-depth emotional vocabulary.

This week I’m thinking about one equation in particular:

Happiness = Wanting What You Have\Having What You Want

Or another way of putting it:

Happiness = Practicing Gratitude \ Pursuing Gratification

So in other words, the larger your efforts at pursuing gratification are in relation to your gratitude, the more you diminish your happiness.  Which is not to say that you shouldn’t pursue things you want, but that you should make a conscious effort to be grateful for what you already have, and to keep everything in perspective.

I decided that if I could consciously practice gratitude in the realm of business travel, then I could probably be grateful for just about anything.  It’s easy to spend your time cursing the crowded planes, canceled flights, surly service and innumerable inconveniences of eating out, driving rental cars and staying in hotels.  Instead, this week I’m focusing my attention on the things I like about traveling.

First was the nifty little rental car I got from Dollar this week.  It was bright lime green, which means I can find it in any parking lot and I won’t make the mistake of accidentally looking for the car I had last week.

Then there was the view out my window on the way home;  a beautiful sunset reflecting through the clouds at 25,000 feet, turning the sky many shades of pink and violet.  No matter how bad the flight is, I never get tired of that.  That’s why I’m a window seat guy.

Then there was my dinner at a national chain restaurant, a dinner so good that I went back a second night and ordered the same thing.  At home I avoid chain restaurants like Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesday or Chilis.  But on the road, I’d rather know what I’m getting.  And you know what?  I’m surprised almost every time.  My meal was absolutely delicious, very reasonably priced, and served by a cheerful and friendly bartender, reminding me that there’s a reason a national chain has become successful–they’ve figured out how to do it right.

Of course the best thing about my trip this week, and my trips every week, were the people I met in my class.  This week I had an enthusiastic, inquisitive group of 14 who made me think about the challenges of team building in today’s federal agencies in new ways.  They talked about the environment of constant change, the systems that weren’t working, the disconnect that sometimes happens between leadership and individual contributors; but without complaining, instead brainstorming some of the solutions that might be within their circle of influence.  I learned a lot from them.

When I focus on what I have, it makes me think about how lucky I am to do what I do for a living.  But I’ll admit, I hope my flight for next week is on time.


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