• December 2014

Barbara Mitchell's #1 Happiness Rule

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook and The Big Book of HR

I recently took a wonderful trip to London and Paris to visit my nephew who is doing a semester abroad at a university near London.

We met in London at St. Pancras Station (where some scenes from Harry Potter were filmed, which pleased Mitch) and took the Eurostar train to Paris—a quick 2.25 hour trip under the English Channel. Mitch has heard me go on and on about my love of Paris for his entire life so I was thrilled when he asked me to “show him Paris.”

Even the first time I visited Paris many years ago, I felt that it was home to me. I have no logical reason to feel such a strong connection to Paris. All four of my grandparents came to the United States from Scotland; in fact, my mother was born in Scotland. And while I love to visit Scotland and its wonderfully warm and friendly people, Paris touches me on a totally different level.

As I stood in the center of Paris, one reason for my happiness suddenly dawned on me: I choose to be happy—no matter where I am or what is happening around me.

I also realized that when it comes to being happy at work, there are three things that everyone can do to boost their happiness quotient:

  1. Find what feeds your soul: There is something about being in Paris that makes my spirits soar. I love the parks and the architecture. I love the food and the wine. I love the shopping. I really love the hundreds of museums filled with amazing art. I love wandering the streets and stopping in a café for a coffee or glass of wine and watching the people. When I’m at work and I feel my stress level rising, I take myself back to this special place by simply closing my eyes and envisioning this soulful feeling. Immediately, I sense my breathing change as a smile returns to my face. It works! Try it.
  2. Enjoy where you are: Any of the things I love about Paris I could do in Washington, DC, where I live, but there is something about the air, the light, and the spirit of Paris that makes me particularly happy. Still, my trip inspired me to look at my hometown with new eyes. I started doing the same thing when I’m at work. As I walk down the halls that I’ve walked hundreds of times, I look for special ways that light streams through the windows, at the art that’s on the walls (that I have never really studied before), and I’m newly attuned to how different parts of the building make me feel. It has been a fascinating exercise, and I encourage you to see your surroundings in new ways.
  3. Surround yourself with people who make you happy: It was such fun to share my love of Paris with my nephew and hear him say that of all the cities he’s visited in Europe, he likes Paris the best. Maybe he just said that to make me happy; and if he did, it worked! But then, my nephew is one of my favorite people, and being with him made me realize that there are so many people in my work and professional life who are positive and make me feel at ease and joyful. My goal now is to include more people like that in my life.

Here’s to you finding the things that bring you joy! Happy holidays, and wishes for a very merry 2015.


About Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors and has consulted for organizations around the world.

She has served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and at several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding The Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include The Essential HR Handbook and The Big Book of HR.

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