How to Be Happy: My Takeaways from the 2019 World Happiness Summit in Miami

You want to be happy, right? I sure do. My clients tell me they do. And I constantly say to my children, Cairo and Moxie, "I want two things for you. I want you to be happy, and I want you to be good people."

How much of your time and resources do you devote to making sure that you and your loved ones actually are happy? 

Last weekend I put my money where my mouth is. I attended the third annual World Happiness Summit in Miami. A thousand people came together to soak in the knowledge and wisdom of luminaries in the fields of positive psychology and happiness science. Some of the featured thinkers were Tal Ben-Shahar, Laurie Santos, Mo Gawdat, Maria Sirois, and Michelle Gielan. Here's what I learned from them:

  • The number-one way to be happy is to create positive social connections. Our relationships and communities help us feel like we belong and we matter.

  • Happy people help others. They volunteer. They are generous and kind.

  • Happy people are grateful for what they have.

  • Happy people live in the present moment. They take time to enjoy what they're doing right now. For example, when they eat an ice cream cone, they pause and savor every bite.

  • Happy people are physically healthy. They exercise, eat nutritious food, and get enough sleep.

  • Happy people are wealthy in time—not necessarily in money. They understand that nothing is more valuable than having the time to do what they most enjoy. This concept is called time affluence.

  • Happy people are aligned with their values. They know their top values, live according to those values, and help others live according to their values.

  • Happy people focus on and invest in their strengths. They also focus on and invest in others' strengths.

  • Happy people do not avoid a storm. Instead, they walk toward and through the storm, like bison do (Gopi Kallayil). If you walk toward and through a storm, it'll go faster than if you wait for it, stay still in it, or hide from it.

  • Happy people are hospitable and welcoming. They invite people into their lives—even strangers—and break bread with them. 

  • Happy people are resilient. They resist black and white thinking. Instead, they are comfortable living within paradox (source for list below: Maria Sirois):

    • "I am imperfect and magnificent."

    • "I am falling apart and growing."

    • "I am vulnerable and brave."

    • "I am sad and hopeful."

    • "I am broken and whole."

  • These are very effective tools for increasing happiness: 

    • Writing daily or weekly gratitude lists 

    • Sending weekly gratitude emails or cards to people who have helped you at some point in your life

    • Meditating

    • Engaging in a variety of spontaneous acts of kindness

Now I’d love to ask you: What do you think of these takeaways? Do these research-based conclusions jive with the way you think about happiness? What, for you, are the keys to happiness? These keys could be psychological, cultural, social, political, material, and so on.


Life Coaching Is Your Smartest Investment in 2019

What’s the first thought that fires in your brain when you hear the phrase “life coach”? 

I’ve got three guesses:

1) “I can’t afford that.”

2) “Life coaching is mumbo-jumbo/malarkey/unnecessary/a luxury/a hoax/for Californians.”

3) “I can’t afford that.”

Now, let me tell you about Amy. 

Amy was a software developer at a large tech company in suburban Boston. She had the skills and experience to move to a management role, but she lacked confidence as a negotiator and was sidelined by a limiting belief—perpetuated by members of her own family—that Asian women couldn’t be excellent leaders. Amy dropped $2K on a ten-session program with a highly recommended life coach. Within ten weeks, Amy had secured a promotion and a $30K raise. I’d call that a pretty strong return on investment.

Would you hesitate to spend a few grand on a life coach? It’s understandable. Amy was hesitant too. But I posit that your hesitation is illogical, given the potential gains. With the right approach, the right coach, and a dead-serious commitment to the process, you could parlay your life-coaching engagement into a big bundle of cash. And you might even get crazy happy and enlightened along the way.

Folks, don’t price yourself out of coaching. It’s an investment. Not only that, it’s one of life’s ultimate investments. What’s smarter, and more potentially life-changing for you and your loved ones, than an investment in yourself? 

In my view, you can’t afford not to hire a life coach if you want to do one or more of the following:

  • Transform your life

  • Get rich

  • Get famous

  • Live an extraordinary, kicking-ass-taking-names life

  • Discover your true purpose on the planet

  • Identify and quell your limiting beliefs and voices of self-doubt 

On the other hand, I would discourage you from hiring a coach if you want to do one or more of the following: 

  • Stay exactly where you are

  • Repeat all your patterns—good, bad, and ugly

  • Limit your beliefs about what you can do, be, earn, and have

  • Revel in feeling comfy, safe, mediocre, and joyless

  • Play small

To paraphrase supertrainer Autumn Calabrese: If you want something you’ve never had, you need to do something you’ve never done. You need to break patterns. You need to transcend your past. You need to break out. Professional coaches are experts in helping people do exactly that. So if everything’s comfy and copacetic in your life, definitely don’t work with someone like me.

I could tell hundreds of stories like Amy’s—stories of folks who achieved financial wealth by investing in a life coach and committing to simple changes in mindset. But beyond financial gain, the benefits of life coaching are insane. Folks who work with a life coach report increases in the following:

  • joy

  • confidence

  • self-esteem

  • fulfilling relationships (social, family, intimate, professional…)

  • positive energy

  • peace

  • feelings of calm

  • self-awareness

  • self-knowledge 

  • concentration

  • creativity

  • innovation

  • discipline

  • motivation

  • leadership skills

  • work-life balance

  • sense of purpose and clarity

  • feelings of freedom

  • feelings of inner power and agency

  • fulfillment and satisfaction

  • open-mindedness and tolerance

  • engagement in tasks and projects

  • perspective on life

  • commitment to deeply held values

  • spiritual connection

  • emotional awareness

  • feelings of being supported

Here’s a challenge: Choose the three items above that you most desire in your life. Now, place a monetary value on those three items—for example, fulfilling relationships + self-awareness + feelings of inner power and agency = _?_. What are these assets worth to you? Is the value quantifiable?

Why aren’t you investing yet?

I’ve got stock in two coaches: my own coach, and myself. I’ll report the returns on these investments in future posts. $ :-) $

Why I Want to Serve You

Dear Women I Coach,

I care about you because you are powerful, beautiful, unique, strong, awesome, and amazing—and you DON'T EVEN REALIZE how much. You have the ability to strike awe in others. I see this in you. I know it’s there because my belief tells me, my intuition tells me, my experience on this planet tells me, and my senses tell me. And if what you need is for someone to hold up a loving mirror, for someone to prove to you how amazing you are, for someone to believe in you a thousand percent, and for someone to tell you to GET UP and STAND UP and do what you know has to be done… then I am honored to be that person.

I want to serve you because helping a woman means helping everyone she knows. Helping a woman connect to her inner power means helping her children, her family, the men in her life, her community, her workplace, her sisters and brothers and cousins. I want to make a positive impact on this world, and helping women to be powerful is the best way I know how to do that.

Women, I care about you because I am you. I walk in your shoes. I feel your joy and your shame, your triumph and your pain. I’ve had moments when I didn’t know how I’d keep going. And I’ve kept going. So many of you have been my sisters. I believe you are all my sisters.



Power Shouldn’t Be a Bad Word

Women of the world: What are your associations with the word “power”? Are they negative, positive, or neutral? Where do these associations come from?

I also wonder, are you comfortable applying the word “powerful” to yourself? Would you describe another woman, or a girl, as powerful? Would you apply the word to a man or a boy? Or do you reserve the word “powerful” for objects like jet engines and tidal waves?

As the owner of a business called Nikki Bruno, Power Coach for Women, I’m fascinated by these questions. Some women have shared with me that the word “power” makes them feel uncomfortable or somehow turns them off. They don’t relate to it or don’t want to be associated with it. Yet, other women learn about my business and say, “Get in touch with my power? Amen! Sign me up!” And I’m signing them up.

For me personally, the word “power” has positive associations. But I understand that the word can come across as aggressive, cold, intimidating, or . . . masculine. And I understand why.

Here’s my position: I think it’s tragic that power has a bad reputation. I want women to have more power, especially in the wake of situations or events when their power has been stripped away. I strongly believe that the world would be a better place if women had more power. And I struggle with the idea that other women would disagree with me.

I want to be super clear about what I mean by power. For the most part, when I talk about power with my clients, I’m talking about personal power. This is the natural power that lives inside each of us. It’s what Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy calls the ability to access our inner resources—strength, knowledge, skills, talents, and so on. 

But my clients and I also talk about positional power, economic power, social power, and cultural power. I want women to have more of these kinds of power, too.

Now, here’s what I don’t mean by power. I’m not talking about control, or domination, or might, or intimidation, or force. And goodness gracious, I’m not talking about masculinity. 

Power goes wrong—it gets a bad name—when people of any gender abuse it. But think of how often power goes right. Power goes right when a woman gives birth. Power goes right when a teacher leads years’ worth of students toward empathy, public service, and tolerance. Power goes right when a woman defends herself and her children from an attacker. Power goes right in millions of ways every single day.

Earlier this year, I discovered that my role on this planet is to help women know and understand how amazing they are. My life purpose is to help women get in touch with their mojo, their moxie, their chutzpah. Their power.

Sure, I could call my business Nikki Bruno, Life Coach, and it would apply. I am a life coach. But how do I differentiate myself—how do I communicate the magic sauce of working with me, and how do I attract clients who would benefit from working with me—without using the word that my soul directs me to use?

Women. Ladies. Sisters. I believe that power shouldn’t be a bad word. Power is native to you… and you… and you. It’s yours to discover, to claim, and to use for good.

What do you believe?

Power Hack #1: Take Up More Space

I’m tipping my hat to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, who’s responsible for the second-most-watched TED Talk of all time. Cuddy’s research gives us a way to feel more powerful in two minutes by changing our hormone levels. Not kidding.

The trick is to take up a lot of space.

Let’s say you’re headed into a job interview, a pitch, a presentation, or a TV appearance in 20 minutes. You want to feel powerful, calm, and expansive rather than terrified and jittery. The way to make this happen, says Cuddy, is to find a private place (like a restroom) and spend two minutes making “power poses.”  

Victory power pose. Credit: Jude Beck

Victory power pose. Credit: Jude Beck

Powerful primates, from apes to humans, take up a lot of space. Standing or sitting, they make themselves tall and wide, and they spread out their arms and legs. Think of an Olympian with her arms raised in the V of victory. Think of an executive sitting tall with his arms draped around the backs of the chairs next to him. This form of body language says, “I’m alpha. I’m confident. I’ve got the power.”

On the other hand, submissive primates—again, from apes to humans—adopt “weakness poses.” They slouch, hold their limbs close to their bodies, and bow their heads, taking up little space.

Powerful primates have a particular cocktail of two hormones. They have high levels of testosterone, the dominance hormone, and low levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This mixture makes them powerful yet calm under pressure. Their hormones set them up for optimal performance.

The proof is in the science. In Cuddy’s experiment, people who spent just two minutes doing power poses showed a 19 percent increase in testosterone (dominance) and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol (stress). And people who spent two minutes doing weakness poses showed a 10 percent decrease in testosterone (dominance) and a 17 percent increase in cortisol (stress). By any standard, these results are beyond significant.

As with any tool, power poses can be overused, or they can lead to an unwanted result. But if you proceed with awareness and positivity, you just might get the promotion. Or secure the next round of funding. Or score the deal. Or have a more productive conversation with your daughter’s teacher. Or protect your family.

“When you feel powerful and confident, you expand in many ways. You feel like you have bigger opportunities. You are more likely to act. And when you do those things, it also makes you feel more powerful.” —Amy Cuddy