Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Art of Happiness at Work | HH, The Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler, MD

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler have teamed up again to create "The Art of Happiness at Work", another book in "The Art of Happiness series."  This is the first book I have read in the series, and most likely my last.

Dr. Cutler is a psychologist and has come up with a framework of questions he wishes to ask the Dalai Lama.  Cutler meets with him every couple of evenings to discuss the nuances of happiness at work.  The examples often presented as a supplement to the Dalai Lama's answers are sometimes anecdotal and come from Dr. Cutler's personal life.  Occasionally, these examples are poor and stray from the point being made.  In addition, Dr. Cutler thinks too much like a scientist and not enough like a spiritual being.  I will concede that this is a difficult challenge that Cutler is working on, but it does make the questions he asks lack a certain something - they seem to be too literal.  Defining something without a common definition is a daunting task; but something that western society continually tries to accomplish.

That said, Dr. Cutler is able to take broad Budhist concepts from the Dalai Lama's answers and sometimes make them applicable to our jobs.  With such a variety of people reading this book, it would be difficult to cover all bases... and Dr. Cutler does his best with this difficult task.

The Dalai Lama once again proves to be a complex man, with simple principles.  His warmth and humour shines through this book, but so does his intelligence and interest in science and humanity.  There are some great tidbits that come through him in this book, despite a lot of general principles on enlightenment.  As you read, you must remember that the study of Budhism is about inner development and as such, you will find no simple solutions in here.  What is presented is both perspective and tips to develop understanding of self.


"You shouldn't confuse contentment with complacency." (HHDL) 28

"He reminds us that if we can change some of the external conditions at the workplace that contribute to our dissatisfaction, we certainly should.  If not, although it is always easy or quick, it is still possible to be happy at work through reshaping our attitudes and outlook, through inner training." (Cutler) 34

"I think it is important to remember that in all human activities, whether it is work or some other activity, the main purpose should be to benefit human beings." (HHDL) 37

"You must take some initiative, even from your first day on the job, aand try to show some friendship to others, introduce yourself, say hello, ask how long have you worked here, and so on." (HHDL) 39

"They may use these challenging situations as part of their spiritual practice, and view situations where there are conflicts with difficult co-workers as opportunities to practice these wonderful human qualities, to strengthen these spiritual values." (HHDL) 45-46

"Those who never lose sight of the purpose of money and have the ability to relate to money with a healthy perspective, even though such people may actually possess less money, will enjoy a greater sense of well-being with regard to wealth and money.  So, ironically, they may be poorer in terms of actual material wealth but they are in reality richer, for they are able to understand the true worth of money, and are freed from the unrealistic expectations about what wealth will provide." (HHDL) 61

"If you just think about your own viewpoint and you have no willingness to open yourself to opposing viewpoints, there will be no room for growth or improvement." (HHDL) 73

"Those who view their work as a calling tend to have significantly higher work satisfaction, as well as overall life satisfaction, than those who view work as a job or career." (Cutler) 99

"You would think that our view of our work depends on the nature of the job.  In some jobs - for example, some kinds of unskilled labor, or what are considered menial jobs - you would think that people would see their job just as a means to earn money, while a social worker or a nurse or a doctor would see it more as a calling.  But it is not the case that there is a division based on the job.  In fact, the very same study that identified the three primary categories of how we view work found that there was the same division, no matter what the particular field or job." (Cutler) 108

"He (Martin Seligman) recommends choosing work where you can naturally use these strengths.  But if you can't do that, then he suggests recrafting your present job to use these strengths as much as possible." (Cutler) 121

"I would also list an agitated state of mind as another obstacle for greater self-understanding.  Since self-understanding demands a certain ability to focus on one's own abilities and personal character, a constantly agitated mind simply will not have the space to enter into any serious self-reflection." (HHDL) 128

"Not only is he assured of his position as Dalai Lama througout his liftime, but he is guaranteed the same job in numberless future lifetimes as well.  That's job security." (Cutler) 150

"The Buddhist concept of right livelihood means that you strive to engage in an activitiy that has no potential for being harmful to others, either directly or indirectly." (HHDL) 162

"And in the modern world particularly, and in industrialized nations where many people do have opportunities to choose the kind of job they take, I think it is best to choose work that does not cause harm to others, that does not exploit or deceive others, either directly or indirectly.  I think that's the best way." (HHDL) 171

"But a wider definition of 'productive labour,' one based on being of some benefit to others, may provide us with many new sources of satisfaction that can sustain our sense of pride and accomplishment even during the inevitable slow periods of our career." (Cutler) 185

"In summarizing some of the literature on the subject, James Harter, Frank Schmidt, and Corey Keys report, 'As much as a fifth to a quarter of the variation in adult life satisfaction can be accounted for by satisfaction with work.' While on the surface this may not appear to be a high number, when one takes into account all of the variables that may affect life satisfaction, including martial status, social supports outside of work, health, and other life circumstances, one can begin to appreciate the tremendous role that work can potentially play in a happy and satisfied life." (Cutler) 188

"The way people perceive the world is much more important to happiness than objective circumstances." (Cutler) 196

"Some made their way through the crowd introducing themselves, and as I would later mention to the Dalai Lama, the most common question was 'What do you do?'  They seemed to have a talent for sizing you up - within sixteen nanoseconds, they could determine if there was any way that you could be useful to them.  If not, they were soon off, jostling their way through the room to meet someone more important." (Cutler) 202

"The employer also, the management, the organization, all play a role in setting the tone of the workplace environment, and have an impact on the happiness of the employees, and of course if we are to discuss wider issues of ethics in business, the economy, and so on, that is another thing..." (HHDL) 206

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