What actually is happiness and how can we cultivate and invoke it in our everyday lives? These are questions I asked Loubna Zarrou, an international bestselling author, certified professional speaker, and multi-award-winning Strategic Dynamo.
Loubna mentors entrepreneurs and helps them gain clarity, focus, and momentum with lightning speed.
What you will learn in this episode:
- What is happiness.
- The role of happiness in success and performance.
- Five scientific (and quick) ways you can cultivate happiness.
- The biggest problem in setting goals of success.
About Loubna Zarrou:
Loubna Zarrou is an international bestselling author, certified professional speaker and multi-award-winning Strategic Dynamo who is globally recognized for her extraordinary skill of being able to mentor Entrepreneurs to gain clarity, focus and momentum with lightning speed. She is also the creator and co-host of the Entrepreneurs Sushi Club Podcast
Before starting her business and becoming the CEO of The Exponential Hero, Loubna spent over 18 years managing projects both in IT as well as change management in the corporate sector. It was during these years that Loubna was able to hone and utilize her expertise in helping people enhance their happiness at work, as well as strategies for more success in the boardroom.
Loubna has now been able to take this a step further with her unique and innovative approach to mentoring through her A.C.T.I.O.N. process and regularly speaks to her audience on the importance of strategy, planning and the science of happiness to increase their impact, influence and income.
Connect with Loubna:
TP: Welcome Loubna to this podcast.
LZ: Thank you for having me.
TP: You have said that entrepreneurship is in your genes. And still you didn't establish a business when you graduated. Can you tell us your story into entrepreneurship, please?
LZ: Yeah, Yes, I can. It is true. It is in my genes. So my grandfather from my mother's side was an entrepreneur who had a cafe in Morocco, where I was born. And both my uncles have had businesses. And for them, they live in in Norway, and they both had restaurants. So it is in my genes. But like most people, I was encouraged to follow the normal path if you would like to say so. So I went to school, and I studied and from studies went into a job thinking that is the best way to do so. And it didn't take it took a couple of years until I discovered that I have a predisposition to entrepreneurship. And I didn't take action until many, many years later, but when I did, and that at that moment was about 10 years ago, I just went for it, and I've never looked back.
TP: Okay, great. You have studied happiness. And our subject today is also happiness. Can you tell what happiness means to you?
LZ: Yes. Well, happiness can be described in many, many, many ways. But happiness to me, is getting up every morning, being able to choose what I want to spend my time, energy and attention on. And that could be many things, because I'm a multi passionate person. But having the freedom to choose what I want to do on a day to day basis is happiness to me.
TP: So when you are making this choice, it's then when you're happy?
LZ: Yes, or both. So being able, so being in the position of make of being able to make a decision. So for example, I've been in a corporate job for many, many years. And it was decided for me that I needed to be at the office from nine to five. Now, what if I woke up that day, and I thought, this is not the day that I want to be in the office at nine. Now fortunately, I had jobs that were very flexible. So I could play a little bit about with my time. But they're also meetings that I had to get to at 9am. So what, and that's the type that I mean, right now, because I'm an entrepreneur, if I get up and think, okay, I don't want to get to work until 1pm in the afternoon, I can. There's no one that's gonna say you can't.
TP: Yeah, this is good, good choice for us to do.
LZ: Yes, it is.
TP: The lucky time of being an entrepreneur, you can wake up when you want, and you can go to sleep when you want, and do your work when you want.
LZ: Yes, because let's be honest, I mean, I am an evening person. So my high productive zone is in the afternoon and evening. That's when I get the best work done. I'm not a morning person at all. So for me, getting up early and and ask and getting asked questions just takes me way too much energy. Whilst if you ask me a question or ask me for advice and support in the afternoon, I found I am really quick.
TP: And gladly it's both for us, it’s evening time.
LZ: Yes, it is. So I'm in my productive zone right now.
TP: Great, me too. So when we continue with the subject, the happiness, what is the role of happiness in your life, and in our life in general?
LZ: I think it depends on how you look at happiness. I mean, some people say happiness is an emotion and a feeling. And that means that it is fleeting, it's not a state, you don't have it 24/7, you can't have it 24/7, because we as human beings, experience a full range of emotions, we can start by being happy in the morning, but then something happens and we get to feel fear or anxiety or maybe have a frustration. So if you think about it in that way, it is an emotion and a feeling. Well, the good news about that is that it's an emotion that you can cultivate and invoke. Instead of staying in negative emotions all day, you can create happiness for yourself. And there are many habits that raise your happiness levels to a higher, higher standard than you might have right now, so I love happiness. I've studied the Science of Happiness, I'm a certified Happiness at Work Coach. So I spent, or before COVID, I spent my time doing talks at organizations and events, sharing about the importance of seeing happiness as a driver for success and performance.
Science has proven that there are a couple of ways that you can cultivate happiness and create happiness for yourself. The most powerful and effective habit to have is a gratitude practice. - Loubna Zarrou, Podcast Step Up & Thrive
TP: You mentioned that there are ways how to increase happiness or invoke happiness. Can you tell us a little bit about those methods?
LZ: Yes, absolutely. So most of us have been raised thinking that success leads to happiness. The problem with that statement is that you will start to thinking or maybe even speaking in terms of, I will be happy when, when I get that promotion when I make 10,000 per month consistently, when the pandemic is over. Well, the only problem with that is that the goalpost gets changed, because when you hit that goal, the only thing you will think is okay, this was easy, I didn't think I would be able to do this, and you will create a bigger goal for yourself. But that means we end up in a state of never achieving happiness, because you said I'll be happy when. But if you turn it around happiness leads to success. So it's better to focus your attention and energy into building some habits. Now, science has proven that there are a couple of ways that you can cultivate happiness and create happiness for yourself. The most powerful and effective habit to have is a gratitude practice. And a gratitude practice means that you spend each and every day, whether you do this in the morning or in the evening, and ideally write with pen and paper, three things that you were grateful for, for that day, if you do it in the evening. Or if you wake up same thing, three things that you are grateful for in the morning. So that is the most powerful and effective habit that you can adopt.
TP: Okay, that was the first one, you mentioned couple of them.
LZ: Oh, yes, there are many, many, many. The second one is connected to the fact that we as human beings love social connection, we want to belong to a certain group, or a tribe or a community. And whether that is your family circle, or a bigger circle, social connection is really important. It's one of the things that has been negatively impacted in the global pandemic, whilst we're here, because we're talking about social isolation instead of social connection. But still, there are ways that you can connect socially, one of those ways is to think about the people in your life that have had a positive impact on you, and make a list of, for example, 10, to 20 people, and each day, choose one of those people and send them a positive message, send them a message about the impact that they've had on you. The mere act of writing that message has an enormous impact on your happiness, and even accelerate or enhances your happiness if you actually send the message to the person. So that's next level for most people because most people think I better not send that message, it's too much compliments, or too much appreciation for that person. But it is just merely writing that positive message is enough to gain the benefits of their happiness boost. But it's even better, that's the advanced level if you send it to that person, because most people will send you a message back and that will trigger the, the effect that is called meaning. So what we want in terms of social connection is to it's not about how many people we know, most people within the time of social media, it's about oh, I want this many followers or I want this many people on my email list. So it's not about the amount. It's about whether or not you are having a meaningful impact on that person. That is what's about so you can have 10 people or you can even have five people on your list. But the importance is that those are the five people that you believe without a shadow of a doubt that you have a meaningful impact or have had a meaningful impact on their life. So that's number two.
LZ: How many do you want me to share? How about I share five? Is that okay?
TP: Oh, yes.
LZ: I will share five different practices that you can raise your happiness level. So we shared gratitude, the power of gratitude. I've shared that number two is sending people messages to your the people in your life that have had a meaningful impact on you, or writing them. And next level is sending them. Number three. Getting excited already? Number three.
TP: Oh yes
LZ: Max it to mindfulness. Now before you start thinking, oh my god, you're gonna tell me that I need to meditate. Meditation is one way you can practice mindfulness. Now mindfulness in my view, is being present in the Now, a lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about the past, or thinking about the future. But mindfulness brings you back to now today, because this is the moment where you can have influence. So mindfulness can be meditation, if you love to meditate, but it doesn't have to be, it could be as easy as sitting still, and focusing on a point in the room that you are in for two to five minutes. That's all you need to do. And if you do that multiple times a day consistently over at least three weeks, you will build that habit of getting back to the present moment instead of remunerative over the past and worrying about the future. So that's number three. Number four is connect to nature. And you can do that in many ways. One of the ways is go outside and actually be in nature. Whether that is on the beach, because you love the water, or it's in, in a park with trees, connect with nature. Now I can imagine, if you're just like me, and live in a country where it's actually cold in the fall and the winter, that thinking about going outside is not high on your to do list.
TP: No, not at all.
LZ: I could totally imagine. So one of the other ways you can do this is actually have plants in your room, or pictures of nature, it has the same, it has a similar effect of actually being in nature. So if you don't want to go outside, just like me, I do not like the cold, make sure that you have the color green, you have pictures, posters, and actual plants in your environment. And just look at them for mindfully then you can. That way you're combining two habits two practices at the same time. So that was number four, number five. Number five, is another journal practice. And that takes two minutes. And this is best done at the end of the day. So take two minutes at the end of the day, and describe in a journal, the most meaningful experience you have had in the past 24 hours. So I've shared before that most people spend a lot of time in the past. But most of the time, we're thinking about all the things that went wrong in the past, this practice is actually training your brain to look for meaningful and positive experiences. Because of our negativity bias, we tend to remember a lot of things that went wrong. But if we train our brain to remember the meaningful and positive experiences, we will look into the present and the future in a way better way. So these are five practices that will absolutely guarantee to raise your happiness levels, if you turn them into habit. So actually practice them consistently over a longer period of time.
TP: These are really great. And what I got is that, basically, a couple minutes for each of them, and you're done.
LZ: Well, that's what I love. I mean, I have a background in IT. So I'm analytical and practical and pragmatic. So I want to take away the objection, you might have a bit -- but that takes so much time. These are all practices that you can do in a maximum of five minutes. Maximum. So there's no excuse because you can even do them while you're sitting on the toilet.
TP: Yep. So just ditch the mobile phone and do some journaling.
LZ: Yes, or if you're not a journal type. And you can also just savor that mere experience. So take about two to five minutes, sit down and make sure that you are present in that moment to maybe take a couple of deep breaths and just think about that experience relive that experience. So if you're not a person that likes to write things down or keep a journal, just savor that memory. Just think about it relive it like you're watching it in a movie theater that will have impacted so don't hang yourself up and oh my god, I need to keep a journal for this.
TP: Wow, these are really effective ones. Thank you so much!
LZ: It's my absolute pleasure. And all five of these, there is empirical evidence and scientific evidence that they work. So they are not things that I have concocted or thought about. This is what I tend to tell people. These are all evidence based to have worked for thousands of people all over the world.
TP: That's great. So for those who doubt everything, this is something you should believe in. Thank you. What is your biggest revelation about happiness and success?
LZ: My biggest revelation was to be really honest, is that the formula is backwards, so that happiness leads to success, instead of success leading to happiness. I was raised to believe that if you want to achieve anything in your life, you need to work hard, you need to work really hard. And as a minority in this country, in the Netherlands, my father even said to me, "You need to work twice as hard to that you can prove yourself worthy of". And that's literally what I done many, many, many years justifying that. And I did get some success in terms of how society defines success. But ever since I have learned about this statement about this formula, one, I've defined success for me. So what does success mean to me instead of what society believes success should be for me. And number two, I've been focusing on cultivating happiness. I've implemented all of the strategies and practices that I've shared with you for the past 15 years. So I can speak not only from a theoretical point of view, but also from an experiential point of view.
TP: Hmm, great. So yeah, this is message to everybody. It's not so much about happiness, what you get when you will be successful, but actually the opposite way.
TP: Thank you so much. And yeah, we heard so many great things about happiness, and those five scientific ways to invoke happiness. And if our listeners would like to know more about you, and follow you, where can they do so?
LZ: Well, the best way to do that right now is to like and follow my business page on Facebook, it has my name, so you don't have to remember anything, any weird name. And I'm sure truly that you will add the link within the description with this episode.
TP: Exactly, all the contact, and all the links you will find from the show notes. Thank you so much Loubna, it was so great to have this chat. And yeah, I can tell that I am so much more happier than in the beginning.
LZ: Oh, that is great to hear. I mean, one of the things that I do on a day to day basis is "Who can I impact today and make them feel better than when they did not interact with me?" So you're one of the people today that has been positively impacts I'm really happy about. Thank you for having me. I mean, I love to talk about happiness and share all of the knowledge that's out there. And even though I've only had the opportunity to share five things with you, there are many, but I would love to see you implement one of these things for the next 21 days. And please do share your insight and takeaways from adopting this practice. I would love to hear.
TP: Yes. So please comment, the episode page. What have you implemented? Which one of those five? So yeah, please come to join and send us comments.
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