My Aunt recently gave me an old book of hers.  Inside we discovered a bookmark she had collected in the 1940’s with this quote on it: “Whatever takes us out of ourselves lets us in to real happiness”.  I instantly loved it and keep coming back to the idea.

Firstly, what does taking ‘us out of ourselves’ really mean?  Secondly, how aware are we when it is happening and how often do we create these opportunities?  And finally, how do we apply this in our working lives?

I asked around a few friends and clients to get an (unscientific but immediate) idea of what it means to different people; these are a selection of answers they gave to my first question:

  • A great book or film, hearing a remarkable story
  • A walk with a stunning view, running, riding my bike, experiencing something new/ exciting/ exhilarating – feeling unshackled, getting my endorphins going
  • Laughing until it hurts, being playful or a little bit rebellious
  • Doing a good deed that helps other people, animals or the environment
  • Visiting new places, doing something creative or learning a new skill that I can be totally absorbed in
  • Listening to my favourite music, dancing or seeing a great live band and being part of the enthusiasm of the crowd – the collective consciousness
  • A crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (in moderation of course)
  • Cooking (whilst listening to the above music with the above wine!)

The essence of these seems to point to the following three themes:

  1. Being stimulated (via a narrative, your senses or a new experience)
  2. Feeling free, renewed or able to step beyond daily activity
  3. Connecting with the things you love or feel passionately about

Through my small poll group, the answer to my second question was also implied; that they were aware of the positive impact these experiences have on them, even if they didn’t always consciously recognise it in the moment.   What did strike me though was the sense that ‘taking yourself out of yourself’ is not something we necessarily do every day – almost as if that’s what makes it special and noteworthy of a ‘taking us out of ourselves’ experience.

This led me to wonder; if we can identify the things that enable us to step outside ourselves and thus give us greater happiness, how can we learn to incorporate them more regularly into our lives?

If you haven’t already started to think of your own ‘take you out of yourself’ experiences, try now and consider how you can consciously weave elements of them into your life on a daily basis……

So to my third question; how can you apply these themes into your working life?  On the face of it ‘escaping from everyday life’ may seem a bit of an oxymoron when comparing it to work, so here are a few questions to help give food for thought:

  1. What do I find inspiring or encouraging about my career/working life?
  2. What activities or experiences do I feel stimulated by?  (What do I specifically enjoy about these?  Who or what helps me?)
  3. How do I connect with the people and environment I work within? (What would make this a greater experience for me (and others)?)
  4. What new skills or experiences do I want to learn or develop, either in this career/role or in a new one?  (What action can I take to progress or create these opportunities?)
  5. Within my working life, which of my values and the things I feel passionately about are honoured?  (What does this give me?)

If you are finding it hard to answer the above, try first considering what your ideal working life might be like, then answer them i.e. in my ideal working life I would be stimulated by……  It may inspire you to make some changes.

Finally, I return to the bookmark’s original owner, my Aunt, whose career was spent with the same company for over 40 years.  Yes times have changed, but here is a piece of insight from a lady soon to be 80, on taking us out of ourselves and creating a happier working life.

 “The things that helped me to see the brighter side in life started with having an enquiring mind and getting involved.  Taking myself ‘out of myself’ was about moving from behind my desk, showing an interest and relating to other people, exploring different ideas and perspectives and being open to progression – that’s what kept me encouraged”.

Some words stand the test of time don’t they?