Business and Happiness: Gardens, Woods and Rest to Make it Happen

One Big Life:  Whether it is digging in a garden on a weekend, sharing in some online humor with a small group, or scheduling a week or weekend away walking on the shore of a beach, recharging can be essential to mental function, productivity, resilience, and to happiness.  

America buying power has almost tripled since the 1950s, while reported happiness

America buying power has almost tripled since the 1950s, while reported happiness

With this in mind, it is useful to note the direction of the economic growth compared to happiness (the bottom line) of American’s average buying power compared to a happiness scale. 

The same chart is cited in a Psychology_of_Happiness entry in Scholarpedia. 

Happiness is also cited by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi author of Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness (1988) in a presentation about “What makes a life worth living?”   You’ll also notice he makes note of profitability at minute 4:30:

Happiness is  also gaining the attention of business schools:

Forget spreadsheets, SWOT analysis and risk management, the latest topic on the business school agenda is happiness.

…academics who research the topic prefer to classify it a bit differently, however. “Meaning” is the term used by Lee Newman, dean of innovation and behaviour at IE Business School in Spain.

At the University of  Michigan, Ross Business School in the US,  Professor Jane Dutton, university professor of business administration and psychology, says it is about “human flourishing”. Christie Scollon at Singapore Management University describes it as “subjective well being”.

Source:  The pursuit of happiness in the workplace ~ By Della Bradshaw, 2013, The Financial Times, London

Perspective taking builds self-knowledge and resilience because “when you’re in it, you can’t see it.” 

Taking a break in the balancing/prioritizing acts of family, friends, and work demands allows a change to step outside our “system” to gain perspective as we relax, and refresh. Sometimes family and friends help us recharge. Yet, sometimes the very same group can also be draining. Remember an ad campaign for blood pressure medication a few years ago that pictured family relatives in the ads?

To help gain perspective quickly, for many of us, there’s nothing like a walk in the woods.  (Click on any photo to view full size and rotate the gallery.)


(Note:  This post was updated in 2013 with additional quotes, a revised title, and a Fall photos.)

To help gain perspective with a bit more depth, there’s nothing like a vacation. 

Alaska Daisies & Pink Mullein


“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.   A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.”   –  Ada Louise Huxtable



Another blogger caught me up north in the Torch Lake area in Michigan at the time of this original post.

This is one of the places I can truly relax and get away, as you may see via the smile on my face at a cherished fruit market nearby, King’s Orchard.

Buying cherries and apricots at King's Orchard, blog feature by Gerry Sell in Torch Lake Views.

Buying cherries and apricots at King’s Orchard, blog feature by Gerry Sell in Torch Lake Views.


From the woods photo gallery above, you can see also that Ann Arbor, Michigan also has a plentiful share of local delights, close by.

The main challenge in taking a break is to show up  and actually take a short hiatus from cares and obligations. 


Perennials from Farmer's Market A2

Perennials from Farmer’s Market A2

I returned to the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market last week. 

It was delightful to stumble across a bargain collection of perennials for $1.00 each.  Yes!!!  (Avid gardener here.)

I was also able to sample Pilar’s famous tamales.

Silvia with Pilar's Tamales at Farmer's Market A2

Silvia with Pilar’s Tamales at Farmer’s Market

I met Sylvia, who agreed to be featured in this blog post. 

Look at the smile on her face!  Sylvia looks like a happy business owner to me.  I’m glad a quick trip to Farmer’s Market gave me a chance to meet her.  She also mentioned her Argentine colleague who makes the famously delicious Alfajores in town.  That will be my next local delights goal, along with my work and home life goals.

Here are some question for reflection and action about making a life, and a living:

    • How are we doing about being charge of our schedules? 
    • Are we in charge of of our own career ambitions? 
    • Are we ambitious about the right things? 
    • Do we know what “right action” (definition is here) is for ourselves, individually, collectively?
    • Could some time away, some perspective taking, a good question or two from a caring friend help us refine what we believe to be career success?

Taking in new perspectives is a key aspect of business retreats

Note the definition of the word retreat:

      • A peaceful, quiet place affording privacy, or security.
      • A period of retirement, seclusion, or solitude.
      • A period of meditation, prayer or study  —

Some of my more current 2011 – 2013 retreat experiences are listed here.

Three Retreat Settings, including Applewood Estate, Flint and the Hankerd Inn, Jackson, Michigan

Three Retreat Settings, including Applewood Estate, Flint and the Hankerd Inn, Jackson, Michigan

Pictured below is one of my own transitions, my last business meeting before I left my salaried consulting job to move into independent consulting and coaching in a full time role (2009.)  It was at lesser known place that is available for retreats on North Campus, the Ford Presidential Library and Museum. 

It was a delight to run into Elaine Didier, the director.  The campus was ablaze in flowers, including the grounds of the Ford Library.  What a peaceful setting to reflect, to discern, and to plan, including change and transition.  There was an affirming synchronicity in being there, for a final business meeting before I transitioned to my independent work.

For Retreat Planning: If your fall season includes planning time to renew focus, consider the space and room carefully.  The quality of planning and selecting a space is a model for how your event and follow-up will go and can greatly enrich your event outcomes and decisions.

Gerald R. Ford Library meeting space with Robin Wright, speaker, Ann Arbor, Michigan - 2008

Gerald R. Ford Library meeting space with Robin Wright, speaker, Ann Arbor, Michigan – 2008

To wrap up, here are a few questions for reflection and mindful action steps toward happiness and meaning:

  1. Who is in control of your One Big Life schedule?
  2. What enriches and refreshes you?
  3. Are you able to schedule this in?
  4. (For organizations)  What collaboration and engagement do you need to build your organization’s work life, One Big Life, for everyone?
  5. What actions and resources would make a quality, performance and happiness difference in your organization’s daily work life?


“People are at their most mindful when they are at play. If we find ways of enjoying our work – blurring the lines between work and play – the gains will be greater.” 

– Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University




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  1. […] a coffee mug.  The stories bring words to life and can help counter decision problems, along with a little rest, a brief walk outdoors,  and some […]

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