Fidelity Labs Book Club entertains joy, happiness

By Betsy Ring

Where else are you encouraged to talk about the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu at work? Discuss the Beatles? Answer questions like “Do you think it’s possible to achieve mental immunity?” Explore the difference between joy and happiness? Generosity and compassion?

At Fidelity Labs, that’s where. Thanks to Chris Parsons, a software engineer, who was inspired to form a book club about joy. “The Book of Joy—Lasting Happiness in a Changing World,” by Douglas Abrams, is an account of conversations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

Chris kicked off each lunch session by prompting us with a thoughtful question. For example, “Which of the eight pillars to joy and happiness resonated with you the most?” The pillars are: perspective; humility; humor; acceptance; forgiveness; gratitude; compassion; and generosity. We wrote our answers on Post-it notes, and he randomly selected our input for discussion. Conversations were both lively and “deeeeep,” delving into topics such as “The Nature of True Joy” and “The Obstacles to Joy.”

The Dalai Lama said, “Joy is something different from happiness. When I use the word happiness, in a sense I mean satisfaction. Sometimes we have a painful experience, but that experience can bring great satisfaction and joyfulness.”

Joy in the workplace?

Who would have imagined there could be such joy at work? The 18 of us were inspired by the conversations that occurred during Desmond Tutu’s visit to the Dalai Lama’s home in India, to celebrate His Holiness’s 80th birthday. Their week of dialogues involved looking back on their experiences to answer the single question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

The moral leaders, both intense and mischievous, focused on the persistent theme of humanity as a whole. “Their joy is clearly not easy or superficial but one burnished by the fire of adversity, oppression, and struggle,” Abrams writes. “Joy,” as the archbishop said, is much bigger than happiness. “While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not.” Joy and happiness come from helping others, they said.

Giggles and vulnerability

There was joy in getting to know our colleagues as well. We laughed a lot as we shared personal stories, and frequently we giggled as Chris squeezed in a musical analogy, usually from the Beatles. The book club connected folks from across Fidelity Labs, and we were daring in our sharing, emotionally vulnerable.

As Executive Assistant Kimberly McGowan said, “I especially liked the camaraderie of the group. Chris is an enthusiastic facilitator and made sure that everyone got a chance to share their thoughts. We had a lot of fun!”

Generosity buys happiness

You’ve heard the adage that money doesn’t buy happiness? Well it turns out that’s not true, according to the spiritual leaders. It does, but only if you’re generous with your own money. Plus, you increase your longevity and have better health, the leaders said. “People experience greater happiness when they spend money on others than when they spend it on themselves … In the end, generosity is the best way of becoming more, more, and more joyful.”