So when was the last time you were really happy?
Most of us when asked that question would recall the birth of a child or watching a golden sunset on an idyllic holiday. I am sure you all have good examples of blissful moments; I am also sure most of you would not describe an episode from your working life.
Employees often regard work as a necessary evil, something to endure during the day to allow us to do the things they really want at the weekend. Entrepreneurs work seven days a week but have a vision of the sale or floatation of their company which will release the funds to enable them one day to spend more quality time with their families on a beach.
The sad fact is that many entrepreneurs who do exit with a big cheque immediately rush off to start the next enterprise, just to prove they can do it again. This is usually with the blessing of their long-suffering families, who would actually prefer not to have them rattling around the house all day, bored and frustrated.
So is the pursuit of happiness ultimately a paradox? To wrestle with this philosophical enigma, I went to gain some insights from a subject matter expert.
Carmel McConnell is the author of an excellent book The Happiness Plan: Simple Steps to a Happier Life which has unsurprisingly sold like hot cakes. She also has an interesting day-job, essentially going into large organisations to help them increase profits whilst at the same time increasing their social contribution. She has been on both sides of the divide, both as a Greenham Common protester in the 1980s and as a senior executive at BT, so she has perspective, an important step towards self-awareness.
Her process for achieving happiness is simple but effective. She first suggests that you should really understand the purpose of the organisation you work for, to get the big picture. What are you actually here to do?
This has to be something more relevant and personal than just 'to increase shareholder value'. What is it about your products and services of your company that brings joy to your customers, where you personally can make a difference?
Once you have worked this out, then you should find a way to be effective in a way which builds trust with people around you. Trust is a very simple premise; it means always doing what you say you are going to do.
Carmel McConnell recommends finally that you try and understand what really makes you happy, urging everyone to ask themselves the question "when and where am I happiest?", and then do more of whatever comes to mind. She observes that it is often when you help people to feel better about something, or even just that they say "thank-you".
Entrepreneurs are the happiest people I meet. They are in control of their own destiny, can make a real difference and are working to increase their own shareholder value. But even the most successful entrepreneurs can feel unfulfilled without a sense of purpose over and above simply making money.
I always advise early stage entrepreneurs to put a social purpose to their business from day one; to find a way of helping people who need it, without detriment to their business. When they are successful, they can scale up this purpose, make a real difference to the world around them and feel better about themselves.
Money does not make you happy in itself, although I have observed that it does make misery more comfortable. But wealth does bring freedom, the ability to spend more time doing what you really enjoy, such as providing free mentoring for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Carmel McConnell's purpose is to use her management consulting and training to subsidise the charity she founded, called Magic Breakfast ( www.magicbreakfast.com ).
Twenty-five percent of children in London go to school without breakfast, too hungry to learn. She arranges free healthy breakfast deliveries to 32 London primary schools, then heads off to large organisations and teaches them vital business skills by getting them to work with the same kids. If you can work out how to motivate them, she reckons, you can then motivate anybody.
And maybe one day those same kids will remember you and ask for a job in your investment bank. Keen and eager to learn, they will really enjoy doing all those mundane jobs that you really hate, thus enabling you to spend more time on holiday with your family.