On the practice of happy-do

Happy-do If you have a clear picture of what makes you happy, it becomes easier to transform things you don’t particularly enjoy doing into things that you do. I like to think of this as happy-do: the martial art of happiness.

Like aikido, happy-do is about using your opponent’s energy to “gain control of them or to throw them away from you.” (from the Aikido FAQ). Like judo, it’s about timing and leverage. In both aikido and judo, the first thing a beginner learns is ukemi–how to fall safely. Then they learn different ways to transform other people’s force while developing flexibility, speed, and proficiency. In happy-do, you start with being able to see the silver lining and pick yourself up off the ground, and then you learn how to make things even better.

Yesterday was a fantastic happy-do day. I turned some of my most frustrating tasks into things I enjoy. For example, I really don’t like working with clunky databases where I can’t find the information I want. I needed to get a better sense of the documents relevant to our project phase, though. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the jumble of documents, I spent some time learning how to make a database view that showed me only items created this quarter. It made things so much better. I helped my team members learn how to make it for themselves, too. That turned the task of working with clunky databases into the more enjoyable activities of learning something new, building tools, relentlessly improving processes, and helping others grow, too.

I also don’t enjoy writing design documents, particularly as I get frustrated when the word processor I use messes up my layout when I insert images. Instead of struggling with the word processor and with the tiny eraser-type mouse on my laptop, I imported the wireframes into my favorite drawing program and used my tablet to move things around. That turned it from the frustrating task of working on design documents into drawing, one of the things I enjoy a lot.

Bicycle My last example–and all of this was just yesterday!–is about exercise. I’m not particularly fond of cardiovascular exercise (yet), and I never liked running (too much impact). I also don’t really enjoy commuting, which is one of the reasons why I try to work from home as much as possible. =) But if I take exercise and commuting, and I throw a bicycle into that mix, it becomes a whole lot more fun! After work yesterday, I biked to Yonge and Bloor (a good 30 minutes with a number of inclines), picked up some lightweight interfacing for a sewing project and some more Vogue patterns to try, and then biked back. That was a lot of fun, and it was good for me. Hooray!

Map out things you enjoy doing, and think about how you can transform your other tasks into something like them. Not all tasks lend themselves well to happy-do–sometimes you just have to do what you have to do–but you might be surprised at what you can transform. Enjoy!

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  • I love the idea of happy-do. Last year we asked 2,000 people around the world what makes them happy (how they have fun) using questions we derived from computer gaming models. We have identified 21 types of fun! The survey details are at http://www.theDgeneration.com and you can see all 21 types at http://tinyurl.com/8mn6ab.

    Innovative team leaders (especially in the software industry) are starting to use these ideas to make their workplace more engaging while increasing productivity. But I believe the ideas can be applied anywhere.

  • Chris

    Great post. When someone first pointed me here I assumed “happy-do” was just another lame cartoon canine. How wrong I was!

    I must say parts of happy-do remind me of Christopher Avery’s Personal Responsibility process, in that people naturally blame or attempt to justify the things they dislike. He argues the best option is to take personal responsibility and do something positive with the situation. That seems to be the first step in the examples you cited too, but happy-do goes further in trying to build-in stuff you do like. Nice.

  • It’s all about tweaking life to make it better and better…

  • Mike

    In college I took a Hapkido class, which I mention because it’s similar to Aikido and is a tighter pun for happy-do.

    Yet another great post that capture a point of view I’ve thought about (and need to practice more frequently) but never made the effort to write about. Sharing your blog posts is like having a virtual assistant for my writing, but telephathic and free!

    In the same vein, I’ve transmuted all my condo-ownership hassles into a fun experience as association president– helping my neighbors, getting things fixed, and being a (benevolent) ruler is much more rewarding.

    Instead of getting annoyed at weird plumbing noises at night and holes scratched in walls, I feel relaxed by the newly quiet pipes and smile at the and painted and patched walls.

    (Actually, my class class was Hankido, but everyone misheard me as the more popular (and similar enough at the basic level) Hapkido or Aikido, so I roll with it.)

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