Jenn Lim hasn’t always been in the happiness business.
“I first started out as a consultant at KPMG, and it was an exciting time. I was working crazy hours and I was traveling a lot, but in the end I knew it wasn’t for me. I was unhappy. So it seemed like a doomsday type of thing when I lost my job [through a layoff], but in hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened to me because it made me face the questions I didn’t want to answer: What am I going to do without the fear of failure and what am I going to do that I’m passionate about, where money doesn’t matter?”
Lim realized that happiness and work could coexist if you base your career decisions on the more important things in life, and not short-term things like money, title and status. She went on to become CEO and chief happiness officer for Delivering Happiness, a company she co-created with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in 2010 to inspire happiness in work, community and everyday life.
So what’s Lim’s formula for happiness?
“There are a few things that can actually help us increase and sustain happiness in our lives, such as having a sense of control over your decisions and acting upon them, having a sense of progress (always growing and learning new things in life) and connectedness (the depth and breadth of your relationships).”
Lim also touts “increasing your state of flow,” which essentially means taking time to engage in activities you’re very passionate about (such as writing, in her case). But she says that the most sustainable form of happiness comes from having a higher purpose.
“A sense of doing something that’s greater than yourself is what guides this whole process of understanding what is it that keeps you happy.”
Lim says you must find what’s specific and unique to you—what she calls your “weird self”—and let that guide your decisions, which will reveal your true passions and help you discover your higher purpose.
“That paradigm actually applies to companies as well,” Lim says.
She continued to explain that if you don’t have passion and a higher purpose in place, then “the odds of you sustaining happiness for yourself as an individual or as a company are that much more against you.”
Lim believes that if you imagine a concentric circle, the one in the middle is the ‘me,’ outside of that is the ‘we’ and furthest out is ‘the community.’
“So the whole idea is that you can really just affect that ‘me,’” she says. “That’s where your 100 percent control is, and we all have a choice in happiness. So by focusing on that first, you will actually create a happier environment at your workplace. And it doesn’t have to come top down; it emanates from us as individuals and then affects other people who say, ‘Hey, this person’s actually really happy, even though this is really a dreary kind of environment.’ By controlling what you can control, you’ll see the happiness levels increase.”
She explains that keeping the ‘why’ of what you’re doing in mind seems like a very simple concept, but is critical for weathering the ups and downs of everyday life.
“It also helps to frame work differently. It’s not work-life separation or work-life balance—I look at it as work-life integration. As an example, I don’t take vacations, I take ‘workcations.’”
Instead of being depressed about checking emails on vacation, Lim recognizes that it’s just part of her life.
“Once I framed it that way, I didn’t see it as a negative thing. This goes back into control of happiness; once you put it in a different mindset, then you’ll see it differently.”
If you’re attending IMEX America in Las Vegas today, don’t miss Jenn Lim’s keynote presentation, “Take Your Event from Informational to Inspirational,” at 8:45 a.m.