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Courage is not enough for success. You need also patience and perseverance

by - 16 January



 Interview with the Spanish writer and Positive Psychology consultant Eduardo Jáuregui

"Following your passion doesn't guarantee anything. You can believe in yourself all you like, but the hard truth is that most of the time, projects don't turn out as you expected. It took about 15 years for me to reach the point where I could live from my books. So, courage is a part of it, but so are humility, patience and perseverance", told me the Spanish writer and Positive Psychology consultant Eduardo Jáuregui.
Surprisingly he manages to make a career out of humor. In 2003 he created a training consultancy specialized in the application of humor, play and positive emotions in the workplace. At first no one seemed to understand its services, but finally he managed to convince clients as serious as IKEA, General Motors, Oracle, and Olympus. In 2008 he began to promote Fun at Work Day in Spain, quickly turning the event into a media sensation, inspiring many companies to celebrate it every year, and thus adding to the calendar a holiday which is now almost as famous as Christmas and Halloween. In addition to his consulting work, Eduardo teaches Positive Psychology at Madrid Campus of Saint Louis University. He has become one of the most requested speakers in Spain and abroad to deliver talks about topics such as the sense of humor, positive emotions and positive psychology, in venues including the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, TED talks, and the Winchester Festival of Art and Mind. Eduardo has published three popular science books on the topic of humor and positive emotions. His most recent book is called "Sicilian Yoga".

In this interview I discussed with him the benefits of humor at work, it's role for innovation, different ways to create fun in a company, ways to enhance our personal feeling of satisfaction, how to discover and grow our true potential.

Eduardo, why should we embrace humor at work? Why it’s important to have fun while we work? Most people understand business as a serious thing where fun doesn’t have place.
Well, I agree that business is a serious thing. But you can be very serious about what you do while still having fun. Just watch any improv jazz group at work (play?), and you'll understand what I mean.
Positive emotions are crucial in the workplace. They promote cognitive functions such as creativity, decision making and memory, and also foster closer interpersonal relationships, both with coworkers and with partners and clients.

You have worked with many big companies like IKEA, General Motors, Oracle to apply your ideas in their workplaces. What feedback did you receive? How humor helped them to achieve their goals? Why should other companies try to add fun in the office?
Many of the companies who hire my services are surprised at the relevance of humor and fun in the workplace, and how crucial it has been to the strategy and success of some major global brands like Google, Southwest Airlines or Ben and Jerry's ice cream. On the whole, the feedback I receive is very enthusiastic.
Some of my clients consider the strategies I have shown them a central part of their success, by improving rapport among employees, strengthening customer relationships and stimulating innovation and morale.
However, not many companies go as far as Google to promote positive emotions, even after taking my courses! There a lot of apprehension, particularly among managers, about giving their employees permission to joke, play and laugh in the workplace.

How companies could create and encourage fun in the workplace?
The most important thing is to give employees permission to relax and be themselves at work. Fun can't be "imposed" from above. One technique which has worked well in many organizations is to create a role (such as "Chief Morale Officer") or a department (such as the "Ministry of Fun") in charge of fostering positive emotions. With a budget and serious responsibilities!
Other ideas are redecorating the office with fun in mind, adding "a good sense of humor" to hiring criteria and "generates a positive environment" to evaluation criteria, buying plenty of office toys, celebrating often, organizing activities (such as a choir or sports competitions) so employees can interact in a more relaxed way, and adding humor to all in-house training sessions, meetings, and other events.

How fun can boost innovation?
According to studies by Alice Isen and other psychologists, people are up to 5 times as creative when in a positive mood. Creativity is, by its nature, a playful activity. Otherwise, it falls flat. Employees must feel safe and relaxed to share ideas with others around a table, and not care if they might seem "silly" or "odd" (ALL true innovations are "odd" by definition, because they've never been tried before!). If a person is stressed, the body's "fight or flight" system is activated --which stimulates physical action, not at mental activity. It is only when we are in a good mood that the mind prepares for building, learning, creating and sharing.

Have we forgotten how to have fun in our daily life where technologies speed up our (perception of) time?
Our rushed lifestyle is certainly a part of the problem, as well as the proliferation of technologies which battle for our attention all day long. We need to create spaces, within the day, which are unplanned and free from distraction. Mini-holidays. Recesses, like we used to have in school. Moments for rest, for play, and for apparently "useless" activities which keep us centered, such as art, poetry, friendly conversation, strolling aimlessly in a park, or meditation.

How can we enhance our personal feeling of life satisfaction?

According to the field of positive psychology, external factors don't count for much, in the long term: raising your salary, getting a promotion, putting your children in the "right" university, getting 5000 "fans" for your Facebook page... The factors which affect life satisfaction most strongly are internal factors such as optimism, gratitude or finding a meaning to your life.

How can we discover and grow our true potential?

That's a very big question. Clearly, we need to stop and look inside, observe ourselves to discover or rediscover our talents and strengths, and put them into practice in our everyday life. Devote some time, on a regular basis, to the hobbies and passions that fill us with satisfaction, to sharing our talents with the people we love, with others who might need it, and with the world at large.

What would you recommend to people who’ve lost the appetite for life?

If you've lost your appetite, the best place to start is to practice savoring the little things. This is where meditative practices, such as mindfulness, are very useful. Many of them teach you to focus on your breathing for hours on end. And it turns out that breathing is a wonderful thing! But you need to observe it for hours to really remember how wonderful it is. Once you start getting that, then everything else in life begins to taste different.
Another good place to start is to recover one of your forgotten passions: drawing, music, theater, dancing, chess, whatever it may be, and integrate it into your daily schedule, even if only for a few minutes. These activities, when practiced properly, bring us into a state of "flow", in which we forget about ourselves and live the moment with great intensity.
A third strategy is to try something new. Visit new places, meet new people, take a class in something you know nothing about, try food you've never tasted, all with a sense of adventure and discovery.

How could we find courage to follow our passion?
Well, I think these things have to be taken step by step. Today, I'm a writer, which is one of my passions. But I didn't just give up my job one day and decide to write. That would have been courageous, but also foolhardy. Following your passion doesn't guarantee anything. You can believe in yourself all you like, but the hard truth is that most of the time, projects don't turn out as you expected. I began practicing my writing as a hobby, a few hours a week, for many years. Later I began to devote more time to my writing, and eventually saved up enough money to finance my own "sabbatical" --which was when I moved to Sicily for 6 months.
There, I wrote my first book, which was rejected by 40 publishing houses. I didn't give up, but I kept working on other projects to pay my bills while I continued writing. It took about 15 years for me to reach the point where I could live from my books. So, courage is a part of it, but so are humility, patience and perseverance. All of these things must be cultivated slowly, with a lot of inner work.

How did you start to practice yoga and what’s its role in your life?

I began because my girlfriend told me to stop complaining about my back pain and to take up this ancient bodily discipline. I was skeptical initially, but she was right. And I soon discovered that yoga helped not only my back but also my mind. After each class, I felt my mind strangely calm, free from the usual chaos of worries, preoccupations and planning. In time, as I deepened the practice, these effects became more permanent, and led to a journey of self-discovery and to many positive changes in my lifestyle and well being. I even became a yoga teacher for a few years, as the character in my novel. Yoga is only one of many paths to self-improvement, but for me it has been the starting point to a healthier, happier and more meaningful life.

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