How to live a happy life

How to live a happy life

Book Reviews

Hacking Happiness by Penny Locaso has practical tips and tricks to shift your mindset and bring happiness back into your life.


WE all want to be happy. And while it's easy to get trapped into the mindset that happiness can only be achieved after you've won the lottery, a new book shows how you can create a more fulfilling life, no lottery tickets needed.

Hacking Happiness by Penny Locaso has practical tips and tricks to shift your mindset and bring happiness back into your life.

Penny explains that in times of great disruption we need to prioritise happiness in our lives to build a solid foundation to innovate and thrive. Through activities, powerful learning and assessment tools, this essential guidebook helps you unlock growth, success and ultimately more happiness in an uncertain future.

Readers will learn how to:

  • Redefine success and infuse more joy into each day
  • Develop a mindset that is open to change and instability
  • Increase focus while living in a world filled with distractions
  • Find the courage and confidence to face fear and shape change
  • Intensify human connection, self-accountability and reflection

Here's Penny's advice for becoming aware of our habits and how to create positive ones:

In a nutshell, focus is about choosing and practising what you give your attention to, right here, right now. To amplify your skill in focus (so that you do not get distracted by the white noise of busy) we start by better understanding what it is that we currently spend our time repeatedly doing (often unconsciously).

As a concept of Greek philosopher Aristotle has famously been summed up: 'We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit'.

Becoming aware of our habits (or the activities we repeatedly undertake), particularly the ones that are not serving us, and focusing on how we can positively shift them in bite-sized pieces, provides a solid basis for a little more happiness in the every day.

James Clear, in his bestselling book Atomic Habits, shares that changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you're willing to stick with them for years ... the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits.

Our aim, therefore, is to expose the habits we have that are not acting in our service, commit to change, experiment with new habits, and consistently practise to find what works best.

Create habits that work for you

Our behaviours are our greatest points of leverage to enable sustainable change, to reset our mindset and make happiness habits subconscious. So how do we disrupt our bad habits and replace them with new ones that enable the life we want?

Firstly, we know relying on willpower alone to stop a bad habit just won't cut it. Your willpower is actually a finite resource. It will run out and often may have already done so by the time the bad habit is occurring. We need to look at how we can remove the power from the bad habit and replace it with a better habit.

There are three simple hacks we can use to do this. I recommend reading through them all first and noting which ones jump out at you. Some will work better for you than others, and that's fine.

Remember, it's all about experimenting and discovering what does and does not work, because one size fits all is not a solution in the realm of hacking happiness!

Remove the habit trigger

Observe what is kicking off the unconscious behaviour that is not serving you. This is about bringing awareness to what is activating the behaviour. Is it a place, a time, a person, a thing?

An example might be my son going to bed at night and me turning on the TV and unconsciously getting up and grabbing something to eat even if I'm not hungry.

I realised my trigger was the TV combined with alone time on the couch. So I stopped sitting on the couch alone to watch TV at that time and instead placed my book on the reading chair for when my son went to bed and picked that up instead. I didn't even think about getting food because I had eliminated the trigger.

Set up your environment

This is about making the bad habit harder or impossible to do.

For example, I wanted to stop drinking coffee for a week to see what happened, so I put the coffee maker out of sight and got rid of all the coffee in my house, making it impossible for me to make coffee at home.

Replace the activity

This is the thing that happens in the middle, between what we call your trigger and your payoff. At home alone at the end of the day, I would find myself reaching for a wine at 6 pm, so to stop the habit

I started taking the dog for a walk instead. The trigger was the shutting of my computer, which remained the same; I just walked to the front door and grabbed the dog lead instead of going to the kitchen and grabbing a wine glass. The payoff was that I felt I was still clocked off and disconnected from my work, and I was more relaxed without the extra calories.

Whatever you choose to experiment with in order to hack your habits, make sure you apply the following repeat and reinforce rules to ensure you set yourself up for good habit sustainability.

Repeat your new habit

Program your subconscious to automatically act based on the frequency by which you undertake a habit. The frequency of that repetition will determine how quickly you can embed your new habit. For example, if you've set up a habit that you will undertake weekly, it will take quite a while to embed, whereas if it's something you do daily (or even multiple times a day) then it will become automatic faster.

Reinforce your new habit

For a habit to stick, it has to be a positive experience. There needs to be an anticipation of a good feeling in the run-up to doing it.

One of the ways to achieve that is to track your progress. There are many free habit tracker apps available such as Habit Bull to help you track your progress and motivate you along the way.

Hacking Happiness, Penny Locaso, (Wiley $29.95, 1 Sep 2020).