Happiness Habits


When we feel at our best, we immerse ourselves in the activities that make us feel good. We are on top of the world. This might mean cooking our favorite dish, entertaining friends, going for a bike ride, or sketching in our notebook.

When we feel down, it can feel like the world is crumbling around us. We turn to our vices. We feel bad for ourselves and think we deserve this. This might mean drinking a couple of bottles of wine, binge-watching TV into the wee hours of the morning, or eating poorly.

The truth is that if we are feeling down, our vices are the last place to turn. While we may feel some initial satisfaction, they will only bring us down, likely leaving us in a more troubled state than where we started. Our health declines, we start feeling bad about ourselves, and soon, we regret our decisions. Why not focus on the activities that make us feel good? In these low moments, I think we face two challenges: motivation to take the first step and clarity on what that step is.

While I haven't yet read Matthew McConaughey's new book Greenlights, he talks about journaling as a pathway for happiness in interviews promoting it. He believes we spend too much time analyzing our failures and neglect to understand what life looks like when we are happiest. Through journaling, McConaughey can go back in time to peel back the layers of the happiest moments in his life. How was he using his time? What was his mindset? Equipped with these insights, he can use them to get back on track.

This outlook is inspiring. I have applied it to my own life by taking stock of what a baseline of happiness looks like for me each week. What activities make me feel like I am moving ahead? What do I need to do to go to bed each night feeling accomplished? The answers to these questions are the foundation for my habits.

No matter what is happening around me, good or bad, I make it my duty to maintain these healthy habits. When I feel on top of the world, they bring me added joy. When I am feeling down, they give me fuel to push ahead.

To take this a step further, I have also applied it to the way my team operates. I believe that every team has a collective energy that can be maintained with their own set of healthy habits or rituals. Over the years, I have created of number of them. Some have evolved, others remain the same. Regardless of how busy we are or how hectic the week feels, we stick to what energizes us. Some examples:

  • Daily Stand Up
  • Creative Juice (inspiration share)
  • One Minute Wednesdays
  • Weekly Discipline Meeting
  • Monthly Design Dialogue (leadership workshop with my direct reports)

We have a motto among the Barrel partners: no good days, no bad days, just days. Prioritizing healthy habits has helped bring some truth to this motto every day, at home and at work.

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