Technology can sometimes drive us mad but can also help us live our best life. So how can we use technology for finding happiness and forming positive habits? You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
An investment banker turned life-coach, Andrew Stead founded Your Daily Bread to help individuals and organizations improve their health, wealth and happiness. In this series, we speak to changemakers on how they use technology to create their best lives.
Ignore his stoic disposition (he knows he rarely smiles), Andrew Stead is bursting with wisdom, passion and the secret to finding happiness. A speaker, facilitator, and coach, Andrew is knowledgeable with tips and tricks on mindfulness – you don’t want to miss this. Once you get Andrew going, his excitement, fascination, and experiences comes spilling out – and you got to lap that up real quick before you miss his wedges of wisdom.
Andrew left us refreshed and renewed as he shared about how he uses technology to understand his happiness with data to evaluate what is and isn’t working in his life.
GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK: What are 3 things you’re most proud of?
ANDREW STEAD: Firstly, I am really proud of the work I do in terms of helping people and making the world a happier place. We are doing remarkably well on many metrics. We are living longer, we are generally a lot healthier but for example, at work, we are not as happy as we ought to be. Therefore, I work with these people and organisations to try and change that fact, and I’m proud of that work. I am also really proud of the people I work with – be it organisations or individuals who are trying to make this change or helping their families, teams, partners and themselves lead happier, healthier lives and spread this to others around them. One last little thing that I’m most proud of is this. When I was 19, I met the Dalai Lama at his home in North India, completely by chance. That was one of the really random high points in my life.
How do you help people lead happier lives?
The world that we live in is typically scientific and left-brained. So we really have to engage in conversations people to give them the best knowledge – scientifically-based – and also pick ideas, thoughts and themes from all sorts of modalities. I usually look at everything and pick out the best information and tools that really work, whether it is an old practice like meditation. So how do we translate this information into real meaningful tools that we can use in our daily lives? Seeking mindfulness and happiness is not just an intellectual pursuit, it’s not just about reading books, watching TV or Youtube or going to the library. It is also about making small changes that can build into bigger changes in your life. It’s about the tools, and about having a clear idea of what outcomes we want. These are the models I use.
What does your best life look like?
This is an interesting question. 3 years ago I moved from London to a new place. I wanted to move to somewhere else because I want to lead a different kind of life, a life that I struggled to find in London. I wanted a community – whatever that means to myself and other people – and surround myself with people that I want to hang out with and share the same mindset as me.
Having moved to Asia, one revelation I had (and it’s not that I didn’t understand this before) is about the importance of the visuals that you see on a daily basis. I am very fortunate that I live very close to the sand and sea now. I see this view on a day-to-day basis and this new visual makes a big difference in my life as I’ve lived in cities my whole life. When we constantly see people, grumpy and tired, squeezing on the subway every day, it gives us a certain mindset that can be quite depressing. But when I see people hanging out on the beach, usually tourists but they always have a smile on their faces and the sun is out, you feel happy too. We are herd animals, and our receptors are working when we observe each other. This visual makes a big difference and does spark change in us.
Lastly, it is about being able to do the work that I do, having a purpose in my life and making a change in this challenging world we live in. We can’t change everything at one go, but we can make small changes wherever we can. This way, we can contribute to creating a future that we can be happy and comfortable about and not be afraid of.
What are 3 tips on designing your best life?
1. Be totally clear about what you want out of your current situation or out of your life.
What outcome we want out of life changes depending on our circumstances, be it where we live, our work and relationship statuses and the stage of life we’re in. Be clear on what it is that you want from life now, or form life as a whole.
2. Feel confident that you can make change happen
The psychologists are telling us that the brain is wired to be 10 times more threat-sensitive and afraid of negativity. It’s difficult for us to feel confident when we are faced with challenges or when we are trying to change something that appears to be really difficult. One thing that holds us back from overcoming our challenges is this belief that we’ve got a history that we can’t rewrite. Instead, feel confident that you can actually do something about it.
3. Start doing something, it doesn’t matter how big it is.
Don’t make your challenges this gigantic mountain that you have to climb. Break this down into the next 5 steps to take, or things to do in the immediate future like the next 3 hours. If we can concentrate on achieving these little steps, we can feel confident that we can make change happen and ascend the mountain step by step. It’s doable, but it can feel understandably overpowering when there are many other things we are worrying about.
How do you use technology to redesign your life?
I’m a data geek, numbers used to be part of my work. We live in a scientific world, and we need all the evidence and data we can get. For example, using data to understand my sleep patterns is really helpful. I know when I need or don’t need to get extra sleep. Things like tracking exercise is also useful and the tips you get along the way is very helpful. I now understand the different types of exercise I do and the effectiveness of it. I do a lot of different exercises, and I realize that the one exercise that really gets my heart rate up is running. With this data, I now do more regular, shorter jogs on the beach.
What is your advice to people who struggle with using technology to design their best life?
The interesting thing about data is that we’re struggling with information overload. I don’t see people who have been immune to it – we now see children, barely out of the womb, on iPads. I feel that it is impacting my behavior negatively where sometimes I’m not present with my friends or giving them time because we are constantly sucked into our phones. On the other hand, we have all the data and science which is teaching us how to lead better lives by making better self-observations. It’s tremendously powerful, but we also need to have a counterbalance in order to leverage technology in a positive way. We need to draw clear boundaries about what is not positive.
I have the privilege to switch of my cell phone at certain times of the day or answer emails only in the morning (or night) just so I can have the space in the middle to not be tap-tap-tapping. A difficult thing to do is making the change once you’ve decided what you want to change. We need to break it down into smaller parts that technology can help with by showing you how well you’re progressing. It doesn’t always have to be an app, it can also be just a simple piece or paper or an Excel spreadsheet.
We’re thrilled to bring you this series on designing your best life with thanks to our friends at Fitbit.