Strategy of Happiness

What is being happy and how do you become happy? Not exactly an easy question but Frederik Imbo has the answer.

20-02-2017 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten

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What is being happy and how do you become happy? Not exactly an easy question but Frederik Imbo has the answer.


Hi Frederik, welcome to the studio.


Thank you.


What is happiness and how do you become it?


Well, first let me ask you a question.




Kevin, are you happy?


I suppose so, but I find it a very difficult question.


Well, maybe we can try to be more concrete. What makes you happy at this moment in life?


What makes me happy? A walk in the mountains for example.


You like walking in the mountains but you don’t do that every day?


No, unfortunately not.


Okay, what makes you today happy? Today, what have you been doing today?


Today? Today was just working. But I love doing my work so…


You like working?




You like walking?




It’s all the W words then.




Working, walking. What else makes you happy? Friends, your partner, your dog?


Going out with friends, my partner.


Going out with friends, your partner. You have all that.


Yes. I’m very happy then.


Well, you’re supposed to be very happy. But, Kevin, if there was no walking in the mountains

if you had not work what you are passionate about, if there were no friends

no dog, no partner, would you still be happy then?


I really don’t know. I don’t think so.


Well, I would say, if your happiness depends on all those external factors happenings, objects that you are getting, having a new car and so on what kind of sustainable happy is your happiness then? I would say we have to look for the things that are inside of us. We have to seek for a strategy to

be really sustainable happy. And Sonja Lyubomirsky, I don’t know you ever heard of that woman?


It doesn’t ring a bell, no.


No. She’s an experimental psychologist and she researched a lot of people in their way of being happy. She found out that sustainable happiness is actually determined by three different parameters. First of all, our DNA, our genetics.




So, we are already born to be happy or to not be that happy. Secondly, our environment. All the things that you were mentioning. Walking in the mountains, your work, your partner, your life, your neighbors. Everything that is surrounding yourself. Even your health is kind of an environment.

And thirdly, she is talking about your mindset, the way you think. Are you positive or rather negative person? Now, my second question is for you. What do you think is the most important parameter to create sustainable happiness?


I think the last one, the mindset.


The mindset?




Wrong answer. No. So two other possibilities, environment or your DNA?


Then the environment, I think.


Then the environment?




Again, a wrong answer.


Then I think it’s the last one.


Exactly, it’s indeed our genetics. 50% of our happiness is already programmed even before we are born.


So you can’t change it?


You cannot change it. Of course. So it means that you are born to become a tall person you’re born to, like me, I’m ginger, I will not be very brown when I walk in the sun. I am programmed also to live long or not to be very sensitive to get ill or not. But in our DNA it’s programmed already before we are born whether we will be happy or not. But, as you said before, if we cannot change it then we also not have to nag about that and we have to focus on the other two parameters. We still have 50% of happiness. How then would you divide the 50% that is still there, in our environment or in our mindset?


In the mindset.


Okay, your first idea was your mindset and indeed 40% of our happiness is determined




40%, determined by our mindset.


That’s a lot.


It’s a lot. Well, actually a lot of people are naming things that make them happy You were not mentioning, I’m happy because I’m a happy thinking person. You were mentioning all things that were in your environment. Only 10% is determined by our environment. This is a bit weird because 90% of the people are nagging 90% of the time about the weather. “I don’t like the weather...

I don’t like my neighbor. I have too much work.” They’re nagging and complaining about anything in their environment. While actually, this only determines for 10%... of their happiness. But do you know one person who says, oh darn I’m nagging all the time about my environment? “If I were a little bit more optimistic or I would work a bit more about my mindset to be more optimistic and hopeful in life I would be 40% more happy.” Do you know one person?


No. Not one at all. But can you tell me something more about the mindset?

How does that work and how can you change it?


Well, first of all, it’s a choice. Voltaire said long time ago, I decided to be happy, it’s very good for my health. So, this means that if you choose to be happy, everything that you focus on will grow.

For example, let’s look to children. Do you know that there are two ways to stand in life.

And children do that all the time. After they have learnt to say mummy and daddy they learn very quickly to say two other words. Do you have any idea what kind of words I’m talking about? They say, mummy, daddy, and they say?




Yes. Indeed, they do say yes. Yes, toys. Yes, my teddy bear. Yes, a TV program. Yes, hugging each other. And they say no broccoli, I don’t want to eat that broccoli. Or, I don’t want to go to bed, or, no, I will do it myself. These two words are attached actually to a positive mindset or a negative mindset. When I say no, this means I do not accept the reality as the reality is.

We do it all the time. We are in no strategies. We think, no, I don’t want this, I want this. So by saying no we refuse to accept reality as the reality is. Or we want something that is not there.

Or we want something that is not there. We want it... Or we longing for something. Or we do not want something that is there. But by refusing accepting the reality as the reality is, we get frustrated.

Because a lot of the things that happen in your environment we cannot change. The weather, can you change the weather?


No, unfortunately not.


You cannot change the weather. You can always take an umbrella which tells a lot about our mindset. Your partner, you cannot change your partner?


Well, you can.


You try to do it. If you were to do this or this. But sustainable? Can you sustainable change someone?




Okay. You can always change of partner but you cannot change your partner.




While actually, what we have to do is to seek for what we can change. Because there are a lot of things that we can change. When your colleague gives you a bad remark, you cannot change that colleague. You cannot change that bad remark. The only thing that you can change is your reaction

to that bad remark. You could say, okay, well maybe he or she has a bad day. Or I can try to say something positive about that to the person. I can be more solution oriented. No, Kevin, is more like a problem oriented way of being. If you go to a shop and you ask the shopkeeper, hello, I don’t want apples. She doesn’t know that at that moment you want, for examples, pears.




So, a no is actually a problem oriented way of being, while actually the yes is the more optimistic and a solution oriented way of being.


Yes, but you can’t say yes to every injustice in the world, isn’t it?


Well, saying yes does not mean that we have to accept everything. For example, injustice in life. Even when you get a penalty for example, because you haven’t bought a parking ticket. Someone is giving you penalty for that. Well, first thing you must do is accepting that you have got that penalty. Whether you accept it or not you will have to pay that penalty. When for example there is injustice in life you first of all will have to accept the things that happen. Reinhold Niebuhr said a long time ago, we will have to accept the things that we cannot change but we must change the things we can change. So when there is injustice there is always things that you can change. And you have to use your mind to distinguish the difference between the things that we cannot change and the things that we can change. So it means, Kevin, that all the things that do not run very smoothly in our lives

we have to stop complaining about all those things, and we have to seek for the things that we can do something about it.




When we would put all our effort, all our energy, into things that we can change then how much more happy would we be in life? I think enormously.


Yes. Maybe to conclude with, are there different kinds of happiness? Or is it just all the same?


I’m so happy with that question, because of course there are different axes of happiness. I would say different dimensions. The first way of being happy is the way of being happy that most people know.

The way of fun, enjoy, yes, I want to enjoy myself, I want to have fun. Go to the party. Yes. “I want to go to the party. I want to buy a new pair of shoes. I want to have a new car. I want to celebrate something. I will drink Champagne.” Well, this is all about receiving something. The art, well art, I would say more the kick out of receiving. Well, actually, the second dimension is all about giving something. Adding value. For example, I’m in a conversation with you and you are giving me negative feedback. Well, I will add value to the conversation by being tolerant by being patient. I will add value to someone’s life when I give something to someone else without wanting to receive anything back. So first dimension is trying to get all things to enjoy. And second one is to add value to other people and your own life. And the third dimension is all about connection. I do not mean with your smart phone because that’s again the first dimension joy, joy, joy. No, I mean really genuine

connection between you and someone else. When you feel connected with your environment

you will not do harm to anyone else. It’s a sustainable way to feel connected with someone.

When you feel connected with your friends, with your family, when you hug people then people will become more happy. Dr. Polzac discovered that we need at least eight hugs a day to not decrease our health. I don’t know how much hugs you have got today?


Just one from you when you entered.


Just one from you? Well, you have seven to go. And I’ll give you a second one after this interview.


Thank you very much for coming over.


You’re welcome, thank you.


And you at home Thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.