How Can You Be 10% Happier Or Even More?

by Tim Rinaldi
6 min read

Do you find yourself often stressing about what happened in the past or may happen in the future?

Do you struggle to be present with others and appreciate the little moments?

Do you typically react rashly to adversity, rather than mindfully responding to it?

Do you fixate on the results of your efforts and become disheartened when they aren’t what you hoped for?

I was immediately intrigued when I read the subtitle of Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works-A True Story. I’ve had plenty of moments in my career of giving in to the voice in my head in the face of stress, so I had high hopes when I began the book. I quickly realized he was an anchor I used to enjoy watching on ABC News (when weekend mornings were spent watching the news rather than various cartoon heroes/animals).

Dan Harris is the co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. He wrote 10% Happier, a #1 New York Times bestseller, then launched the Ten Percent Happier podcast and co-founded the Ten Percent Happier app to share the power of meditation.

After he explained what led to his on-air panic attack in 2004 and how learning about and practicing mindfulness enabled him to not only recover but to grow, I was thrilled that I chose to read it. I took a class on Buddhism while in college at Tulane, and I’m confident it was one of the most valuable courses I took during my four years there. I planned to eventually write a post on it, so I was pumped when I realized I could do so by sharing my takeaways from 10% Happier. If you haven’t been exposed to Buddhism, or you have but only the spiritual aspects of it, you may be wondering how it could impact your career. 

Dan Harris did a great job of detailing how practicing mindfulness enabled him to thrive in his career, one filled with incredible stress and constant competition, so I hope you’ll find these lessons as powerful for your career and personal life as I did:

1- Prioritize the present and be compassionate 

As Harris explained, too often we stress over what happened in the past or may happen in the future, and we allow the negative voice in our heads to dictate our actions. We see the present as an obstacle that must be overcome to achieve what we want in the future; this anticipation and desire to be elsewhere leads us to take for granted the little moments for which we should be thankful. By embracing mindfulness, though, we can realize these little moments are fleeting and savor them. We can recognize the good and bad that is happening in our lives without getting carried away by it. If you’d like actionable advice on how to better live in the moment, I found this article helpful: 12 Ideas for Being More Present in Your Life.

Along with living in the present moment, we should strive to be present with those around us. Rather than attempting to multitask (and failing if we’re being honest with ourselves), we should focus on doing just one thing at a time. And rather than pushing ourselves to not stop until we’ve accomplished our task, we should take short mindfulness breaks to appreciate what’s going on in our lives and then revisit the task with fresh eyes. 

Finally, more than just being present with those around us, we should be diligent to be compassionate towards them. As Harris referenced in his interview with the Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama once said, “Most of one’s own troubles, worries, and sadness come from self-cherishing, self-centeredness.” Harris realized we should be compassionate not just for others, but also for ourselves, and then made it a conscious daily priority; in doing so, he made better decisions and became happier, which led to a cycle of better decisions and happiness. 

When I think back to the most stressful moments in my career, I was regretting past decisions and convincing myself I would always be paying the price for them. I was focusing on myself alone and ignoring all the reasons I had to be thankful. When I think back to my most joyful moments leading mission work and in my career, though, it was the exact opposite – I was living in the moment, fully appreciating it, and seeking to have as great an impact on others as possible. 

In your career and personal life, in your most stressful moments, what are you focusing on, and how much good does it do? On the other hand, in your best moments, what are you prioritizing? And how can you be on your mission to replicate that mindset more often in the future?

2- Respond to adversity with mindfulness

As Harris explained, by accepting impermanence and acknowledging that the moments in our lives are always fleeting, we can better deal with the drama and stresses that we face. We shouldn’t ignore these experiences and how they make us feel; instead, we should focus on how we feel as a result of the adversity, determine how our feelings are affecting us, and then realize it’s a fleeting state. This will enable us to respond to the adversity, rather than rashly reacting to it. As Harris struggled with in his career, this doesn’t mean that we should become passive or meek or treat life as if it’s meaningless because it’s fleeting. We can and should be on a mission; we should take more care in how we respond to adversity once we appreciate that it is not permanent. 

Harris wrote of how he applied mindfulness to deal with a stressful interview, and it reminded me of stressful job interviews I’ve had. For one interview in particular, no doubt the worst I’ve had, I stumbled to answer a question effectively and reacted to the adversity, rather than responding to it. I couldn’t refocus, and my answers only seemed to get worse until I checked out altogether. Had I responded to my setback with mindfulness, though, I would have taken a moment to gather myself, acknowledge that my mistake would be forgotten, and I could control how quickly it would be forgotten by crushing the rest of the interview. 

With your work, do you typically react or respond to adversity? Are there any particular types of adversity that often cause you to react? How can you change your mindset in these moments to mindfully respond instead? And how would that impact your career?

3- Finally, consistently ask this question: “Is this useful?” 

As Harris explained, mindfulness doesn’t result in us never worrying; rather, it results in us only worrying and planning as long as it’s useful. Too often, as we think about what will be coming next in our lives, we stress about the many variables that we have no control over. He gave the example of worrying about his flight not being on time – while it will be important for him, his stressing over it would accomplish nothing and inhibit him in other areas where he did have control. 

This also applies to our focus on the results of our endeavors – once we’ve put in the effort, we should only worry about the results when we can control them. For Harris, once his book was published, he couldn’t control the response from critics and his readers, so why should he stress over it? By being attached to results we can’t control, we miss out on opportunities to improve by focusing on the areas we can control. Instead, we should mindfully respond to our results by focusing on the variables we can influence, be resilient, and take action. 

In my experience, this question would have saved me so much unnecessary stress. It’s in my nature to plan and then stress when things don’t go according to my plan, and I often would dictate my self-worth based on results that I couldn’t control. By focusing on the process instead, though, I can focus my time and energy on the areas that will have the greatest impact.

When you worry or plan, how much of it is useful? How much do you focus on results you can’t control over other areas that you can control? What would be the impact of consistently asking yourself, “Is this useful?” at these moments?

At the end of 10% Happier, Dan Harris shared his own list for how we should live out mindfulness in our careers with his “The Way of the Worrier.” He concluded it with another question we should ask ourselves consistently: “What matters most?” A major benefit of being more mindful in our careers is realizing what matters most, both in the moment and throughout our lives. So, by working to become more mindful, we can stop stressing over things we can’t control and learn to appreciate all that we have to be thankful for. We can become more confident, kinder, and have a much greater impact on those around us. As Harris explained, we can create our own happiness by not being so reliant on our constantly changing external circumstances. 

Finally, I wanted to share this video clip in which Harris explains why he wrote this book in response to what he called “the most embarrassing day of his life.” But just an hour after his on-air panic attack, Harris completed another on-air segment without issue and his colleagues moved on. The next time you face what might be the most embarrassing, stressful, or disappointing moment of your career, remember – life is fleeting, everyone else will move on, and you should be on your mission to do so, too.

These are just a few of my takeaways from 10% Happier, so I highly recommend reading it and determining how it will impact your career! Here is a referral link to Amazon. Note- I used the Audiobooks app to listen to this book and highly recommend it! 

To learn more from Dan Harris on the power of mindfulness and meditation, please check out the newsletter and podcast on his website: https://www.tenpercent.com/

How can I get better?

My mission is to impact as many people as I can from what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in my career. If you have any feedback on how I can do that better (about my writing style, other books/articles/videos I should check out, etc.), I’d love to hear it!

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