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Maximizing Happiness and Contentment

Dave graduated magna cum laude from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in mass communications and business administration. Later, he obtained a masters degree in global human resources development from the University of Illinois. He founded the Leadership Difference, Inc. in 1995, and serves as President and primary service provider. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

I think the use of humor makes it so much easier to pay attention to the material and connect it to their life experiences. Plus, who doesn’t need a good laugh every day?

SPEAKING.COM: “Enter-train-ment” is a term you coined to describe your style as a speaker. What does that mean exactly?

MITCHELL: The two things that give me the most joy are making people laugh and facilitating the transfer of learning that will improve their lives. “Enter-train-ment” is the combination of these two things. Learning begins with engagement. A person cannot begin to understand concepts unless they are fully present to absorb the content. I think the use of humor makes it so much easier to pay attention to the material and connect it to their life experiences. Plus, who doesn’t need a good laugh every day?

I feel fortunate to be able to provide people information that will help them succeed at work and at home in the long term, and contribute some laughter to their life in the near term. I also feel compelled to add that I am far funnier in front of an audience than I am during an interview, so please don’t judge my sense of humor based on this.

SPEAKING.COM: In your “Live and Learn or Die Stupid!” program you talk about a “checklist for maximizing happiness.” Why is it important to have this checklist?

MITCHELL: Life is very noisy and getting louder. We are bombarded by information, sensory assaults and technology. We jump on social media and see images of people that we vaguely know who appear to be having amazing lives. It is so easy to lose track of our own mental states as we rush from one priority to the next, or as we compare our life to those we see online.

Finally, we find ourselves lying awake in bed at 3:00 AM experiencing what I call the “demon committee meeting.” You know, that moment when all your fears come rushing into your brain? It really stinks that these meetings are always scheduled for 3:00 AM, but we are too busy during the day for the demons to get on our agenda.

It is so easy to become consumed by our responsibilities, concerns, failings, goals and bills–the list never ends. Having a checklist to refer to when we find ourselves in a swirling eddy of despair can help us return to a place of balance and positivity. A happiness checklist is essentially the noise canceling headphones for life.

Being content requires that you feel good about yourself, what you have achieved so far and that you have reconciled your potential with your performance, your goals with your situation.

SPEAKING.COM: In your opinion, which is easier to achieve: happiness or contentedness?

MITCHELL: That’s kind of like asking which is easier, getting an “A” in Calculus or learning to play guitar. Both are hard, but only one seems to be enduring.

I love being happy, but happiness seems very fleeting. I am a happy person, but there are days that I just don’t feel happy. Sometimes I can point to a specific issue that is providing a barrier to my happiness, other times it feels almost like a body chemistry issue in that there is no apparent reason that I am not happy, but I am not. On these days, I refer to my happiness checklist to see if I am engaged in some form of negative thinking unconsciously that is betraying my happiness. But, there is no doubt that happiness has ebbs and flows. In this way, I think happiness is the easier to achieve and the harder of the two to maintain.

Contentedness is more important, in my opinion, but much harder to achieve, even for brief periods of time. Being content requires that you feel good about yourself, what you have achieved so far and that you have reconciled your potential with your performance, your goals with your situation. One can be content and still driven, but it is a very difficult mental state to achieve. The good news, at least in my experiences, is that once you achieve contentment, it is more enduring. And oddly, I can feel content while being unhappy and happy but not content. It’s complicated.

SPEAKING.COM: What three key pieces of advice would you give to those seeking happiness?

MITCHELL: First, realize that happiness is not something you need to seek, but rather something you have to allow. Happiness and contentment both come from within. And I think it is useful to remind yourself that one can be unhappy but still content and that is a completely okay state of being. As I mentioned previously, happiness is more fleeting, contentment is more important.

Second, be mindful of how you think. For me, feeling like I can impact the situations that occur in my life – possessing an internal locus of control – gives me the best chance at both happiness and contentment. Taking full responsibility for the state of your life is the first step, especially, towards contentment.

Finally, be kind to yourself. Our bodies react to our brain; when we engage in negative self-talk, we create both mental AND physical manifestations that erode happiness and contentment. It is really hard to be happy or content when you are staring at your reflection in the mirror and muttering, “Man, are you ugly. And fat, too!” We can escape the negative influence of others in our lives, but we cannot run form the voice inside our head. It is important that the relationship you have with yourself is positive; that you define yourself by your good qualities rather than constantly criticize yourself.

Recognizing, understanding, and providing for the intrinsic needs of others are fundamental to enhancing relationships at home and at work.

SPEAKING.COM: Your book The Power of Understanding People explores the importance of understanding the intrinsic needs of others. How does that make for better relationships?

MITCHELL: Intrinsic needs and their fulfillment is analogous to putting fuel in a car. When we have our needs fulfilled, a full tank if you will, we perform better in all areas of our life. The challenging part is that different people have different intrinsic needs and our natural tendency is to reward others by giving to them what we would want given to us. In the book, I describe four different types of people: Romantics, Warriors, Experts and Masterminds. Each has a different intrinsic need.

In a marriage, for example, you may have one person who is a Romantic and one who is a Warrior. Romantics like to be appreciated. They are more likely to effectively manage stress, feel more content and perform at their highest level if they are receiving gratitude for their efforts.

On the other hand, Warriors thrive when they are given independence. Left alone to accomplish their goals without the meddling of others allows the Warrior to achieve results efficiently. The Warrior will have a tendency to reward their Romantic spouse by giving him or her latitude and space.

Unfortunately, the Romantic may feel taken for granted by the Warrior. On the other hand, Romantics may inadvertently irritate the Warrior by being too involved in what they are doing. Recognizing, understanding, and providing for the intrinsic needs of others are fundamental to enhancing relationships at home and at work.

SPEAKING.COM: What is “consultative selling” and how can it help companies expand their market share?

MITCHELL: Consultative selling is a very simple concept that appears to be very challenging to execute. It is based on the simple notion that consumers have both needs and preferences. Needs refer to the products or services for which they are in the market. Preferences refer to the relationships they like to forge with their service provider.

The two primary goals of consultative selling is to identify the consumer’s relationship preference and their critical needs. By knowing these two things, the sales professional can then bridge the capabilities of the organization to the critical needs of the consumer and frame the value of the products and services in a manner that resonates with the consumer.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. I have a friend who is an artist. He paints beautiful art that would appeal to the taste of specific consumers. The consumer’s taste would be their critical need. So, my friend may successfully paint a picture that perfectly matches the consumer’ taste (critical need). However, if the frame around the perfect picture is not consistent with the consumer’s lifestyle, the consumer may not see the value of the picture. The frame represents the preference.

Consultative selling is about identifying what the consumer needs and framing the value of the company’s products and services in a way that matches the consumer’s preferences.

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To bring Dave Mitchell to your organization to bring inspire and motivate your team, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.

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  • Dave Mitchell Dave graduated magna cum laude from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in mass communications and business administration. Later, he obtained a masters degree in global human resources development from the University of Illinois. He founded the Leadership Difference, Inc. in 1995 and serves as President and primary service provider. He is also an adjunct ... more

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