In this episode, happyologist, Jackie Ruka, shares tools to help you find more happiness, how to evaluate your happiness based on the three levels of happiness, why you should embrace your weaknesses and how to get more fulfillment from life.
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3 Key Points
Happiness is an inside job.
Happy people are more successful and make more money.
Unhappiness is a wake-up call. Pay attention to it.
[0:51] Ellen: Hi everybody, and welcome to Episode 35. Today, my guest is Jackie Ruka. Jackie is a professional happyologist, certified success and leadership coach, therapist, certified success coach, affiliated with Harvard university and medical school motivational speaker, author of the number one bestselling book, Get Happy and Create a Kick-butt Life.
She’s been featured in Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, SHRM, and the Daily Word WWII women’s magazine. And she’s launched brands from 100 million to two billion for fortune 100 to 500 companies using practical and inspiring methods that leverage leaders in teams. She has a passion to develop the head, heart, and soul of professionals towards a winning organization and has come far from her background as a dyslexic kid due to her courage, tenacity, and wisdom. And in being transparent here, I should tell you that she is also one of my clients. So, welcome to the call Jackie.
[1:59] Jackie: Hi Ellen. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
[2:03] Ellen: Well, it’s so great to catch up with you. It’s so great. I love having this podcast because I get to talk to all my people.
[2:10] Jackie: Yeah, I know. That’s fun.
[2:12] Ellen: It is fun. So, where I want to start is why don’t you tell people a little bit more about your story about growing up dyslexic and the troubles that you had as a kid.
[2:23] Jackie: Sure. well I, I was one of the lucky ones as far as they found my dyslexia pretty early on, which oftentimes does not happen. Some kids get lost in the system and end up really struggling to the point where they get left back and things of that nature. I got found as being dyslexic as early as kindergarten, and they saw that I kept switching my letters and numbers and was jumbling my words. And although it took me up until about fourth or fifth grade to really somewhat normalize the having a more conscious awareness of it, I was able to now see where my brain was tricking me in seeing things that were reversing on me. But I still was extremely shy as a kid because I felt so insecure. And I knew something wasn’t right, but nobody else knew that. But it really caused me to be an introvert.
And, I struggled with that, so even though I had a kind of a pushy, very vocal sister, who I really had to learn to stand up to, and it had it not been for having a sibling who kind of pushed me out of my shell. I’m not quite sure if I would have developed the resilience that I did early on. So, despite being dyslexic and I still catch it, it also inspired me to recognize that I’m not going to let this hold me back. And I think that often happens is people hold themselves back from an insecurity or a disability. And it’s actually the opposite is to look at your, what might be perceived as your weakness, as your actual gift.
And that is what I learned from being a dyslexic kid was I really could overcome anything, and I really can do anything. And that is what led me, I think all the way through becoming a therapist and working with mental-health patients, and then working in the corporate world, and leading all the way to becoming an author, and a leadership coach, and success coach is that with every breakdown that happens there’s always a breakthrough. And I think that’s part of understanding what a happyologist is, which is really more of a disruptor of the negative and leaning into the positive.
[5:02] Ellen: Nice. Well, let’s go back a little bit. You said it’s your gift. Could you expound on that a little more? How is it your gift?
[5:11] Jackie: It’s your gift because it helps you to exercise more of what your strengths are. I had to build not only a level of resilience, but I also recognized that I, as a kid who was dyslexic, was an observer. So, I paid attention to what wasn’t being said, and it helped me to be more creative to forming ideas and creating solutions. And I think that’s part of what has helped me, or big part of what has helped me in the corporate world is I see what isn’t being said. I pay attention to the gaps, and I see other types of solutions in ways of going about doing something from a completely different perspective because of that young kid who had that dyslexia and perceiving the world from a completely different standpoint and perspective. So, it’s more of not seeing, not focusing on the obvious, it does put it that way, and uncovering the root and forming creative solutions.
[6:21] Ellen: So, say that again, somebody’s gift is something where they may see it as a weakness, but it actually helps them to see the world in a way differently than other people see it.
[6:34] Jackie: That’s correct.
[6:35] Ellen: That the point you’re making? Yeah. As you were saying that, the thought that came to me was that’s true of me as well. As a writer, you’re an observer.
[6:45] Jackie: Absolutely.
[6:48] Ellen: That’s what you write about is what you observe.
[6:51] Jackie: Yeah. I think, writing is, I mean I’ve always, that was the other thing as a dyslexic kid is my catharsis was drawing and part of drawing was also writing. I wrote constantly, I was constantly writing down my thoughts. I was constantly writing down ideas. I was constantly journaling or doodling in…it’s free expression. It’s a catharsis; it’s a way to express yourself without judgment. It’s a way of putting your thoughts down, and it is another way of forming solutions because what you might be perceiving, and then you start writing it out, you have this ability to form insight, and it’s the insights that people don’t always capture because we live in such a busy, busy world that people miss the insights.
And we develop insight by the time we are twelve years old-the ability to see things beyond the obvious and form a conclusion to something that might be more roundabout. And I think it’s the insight in the aha’s that, we actually developed by age twelve, but people lose that art. It’s like the insight of, of your life. If I didn’t learn from my, what I perceived as my weakness, I could have just continued to be holding myself back.
[8:18] Ellen: That is so interesting because I can remember being eleven or twelve and seeing things that I would say and my parents will look at me and say, “You’re crazy.” And I was not crazy. I was observant.
Jackie: Exactly. You formed insights that people probably didn’t expect to hear out of an 11-year-old.
Ellen: Yeah. And it can be really damaging too. Cause then you don’t trust yourself because you think you’re crazy if there were, because the world… it kind of reminds me of what’s happening now. It’s kind of like the world is constantly telling you, “No, no, no. You’re not seeing what you’re seeing.”
Jackie: Right. Well, the world right now is in a state of ego. And ego is either in constant judgment, or constant control, or constant approval. And so, when you’re operating from ego, you’re doing those three things on a regular basis. And when you release the control, when you release the judgment, when you release the need to be approved, then you are actually forming a state of bliss and inner peace.
And what’s happening is I think social media is playing a big part in that because everyone’s comparing themselves to everyone. Everyone’s judging, everyone has a comment or a criticism. And if we were not operating from ego, wow, what would the world look like then? It makes you wonder.
Ellen: Yeah, it does. Well, let me ask you this, how did you become a happyologist? That’s so unusual.
Jackie: It is very unusual because, well, I originally started as a psychotherapist and I worked in mental health back in the day when Prozac first came out. And you know, depression was only then just coming up with new treatments to help with serotonin-deprivation in the brain, and all of that. And so, it was a new science. But what ended up happening in the world of mental health, and in depression, is that everyone thought they were depressed and everyone started taking Prozac and no one really started looking at why they were unhappy or the root of their depression.
And so, the world of treating depression has gotten to the point of if you break a fingernail, you need some kind of medication to overcome your anxiety or depression. And the flip side is positive psychology. When you flipped the script, you really are not focusing so much on depression, but you’re focusing more on the aspects of people’s happiness, and how you can actually reverse depression without medication. And I’m not saying that medication is a bad thing. You know, it has millions of millions of people, however, you don’t have to rely entirely on medication in order to reach a level of happiness.
And at the same time, medication alone doesn’t treat depression. You usually need some kind of therapy or talking therapy.
Ellen: Something usually needs to change.
Jackie: Correct. And so well, exactly. And so what positive psychology talks about is it’s basically the study of happiness. There’s been over a decade of research related to happiness and wellbeing. And the premise basically is happier people are healthier people; they have less illness, less stress in their lives; they enjoy what they do for a living; they are more productive, and they actually make a higher income. And so, after a decade of study of looking at people who measured higher on the happiness and wellbeing scale, you could actually see how happiness equates to a certain level of success in your wellbeing, and your social life and your work life and in your overall health.
And so, instead of focusing so much on popping a pill in order to potentially feel better, there are so many other things that are overlooked that people could be investing in that doesn’t have to be expensive to actually improve their level of happiness and reach a level of purpose and joy, and actually get off their medication, and not have to see a psychiatrist or a therapist for years on end.
And I have to say that for many of the people that I’ve worked with who’ve seen multiple psychiatrists over the years, when they’ve worked with me, I’ve been able to not only help them improve their level of happiness and decrease their level of depression, but I’ve been able to do it in six months or less, where most people are seeing a psychiatrist or on medication, or going through therapy for years, years.
Ellen: Yeah, I did.
Jackie: Yeah. So, you know.
Ellen: I was in college. I had a therapist the whole time I was in college. I had a therapist the whole time I was in graduate school. And I became agoraphobic. I couldn’t leave my house for like six months, and I had to dump graduate school; I hated it. I had to dump my boyfriend; he was a doll, but he was not the right person for me, which was really hard because I loved his family too, and I started songwriting at that point and everything changed because I was super happy.
Jackie: Yeah. Cause you were expressing yourself.
Ellen: Right. But I had to let go of everything, and nobody was in my corner, and everybody thought I was crazy.
Jackie: Right. And so that’s the unfortunate thing about mental health and, as I call it, social wellness is that we don’t, and especially in the U. S., even though we are a very wealthy company, we are not investing enough in social wellness.
Jackie: And I feel that mental-health stigma that if you see a therapist or if you’re on medication, that you’re crazy. In actuality, half of our nation, over 44% of people in the U. S. suffer or have experienced some kind of a mental-health issue. And that’s a lot. And so, of course, anxiety is number one on the, the scale of mental-health issues, depression. And of course, suicide is like the second most leading cause of death.
Ellen: Right? Well, you know, as you’re speaking, it reminds me that’s why I wrote How To Crush It In Business Without Crushing Your Spirit. How Entrepreneurs can Overcome Depression and Find Success. Because as I went through my entrepreneurial journey, I saw that as I went through my entrepreneurial journey, I saw that like the first couple of years, I was like super excited, I was learning new stuff; I was totally into it.
And then, I reached a point where a whole bunch of things happened. The recession hit; I lost half my business. But aside from that, it started to become a rut. Like, “Is that all there is?” And then it was like, I was doing my workshop, and I would like do the workshop; I would launch, I would do a workshop. I would be exhausted and I would crash, and then I would do it again and again. And I did that thirty times. I did it for over a decade; I’ve taught it now thirty times from 2004 to 2015.
Jackie: Wow. And so, that’s a really good. That leads me to the three different levels of happiness because happiness is a choice. Obviously, we can choose to go down the downward spiral and go with emotions that are not serving us. Or, we can have a conscious level of happiness and choose to switch out our thoughts related to our feelings and choose to uplevel, or up spiral our feelings. And by doing so, you learn to balance these three different levels of happiness. And so, what are they?
Ellen: Right. But before you go there, I just want to say, but unhappiness serves a purpose, which is had I not been unhappy, had I talk myself into being happy with my situation, I would never have become a songwriter. I would never have gotten a Grammy. I would never have flipped houses. I would never have done, become a coach. The unhappiness is what propelled me to find out why I was unhappy.
Jackie: Exactly. And so, oftentimes, because it created the ability for you to explore, and discover and go within. Because happiness is, you know, when people ask me, “Well, how do I find happening? Well, it’s an inside job, right? If you’re unhappy, then you need to go inside. (Ask yourself) “What’s going on?” And ”What’s not going on?” And then determining, “What do I need in my life right now? What kind of purpose do I want to represent that feels good to me despite what other people think of what that might be?” Because we’re so tied to, what society’s view is of who we are and what we do and how we do it. And we get so caught up in that outside persona that we lose who we actually are and what our God-given purpose is on this earth.
Ellen: And that’s why I implore people to find out what they’re passionate about to write their book, to not write something like when people say, “Oh, just take something,” and like the whole idea that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Yeah. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you’re not into it, what’s going to happen is, like YOU know, you’ve written a book; it’s an investment of time and energy, and if you’re not invested in it, if you’re not passionate about it, most people reach a point where they don’t finish.
Jackie: Correct. And there’s got to be a certain level of enthusiasm. You know, when there’s commitment and there’s intention there, you’ve got to feel inspired because if you’re not taking inspired action, then yes, if there’s no inspiration there, you are going to crash and burn.
Ellen: Yeah. Exactly.
Jackie: It’s not going to get done.
Jackie: That challenge no longer is invigorating. And then, you get back to that level of stuckness. And sometimes, writing a book is painful because it’s not as easy as you might think it it’s going to be; the words don’t necessarily flow as quickly or easily as you thought they would, and you are kind of raw when you’re putting yourself out there and you know people are going to be reading your words, and they can change their life. You can go through imposter syndrome and fear, and all kinds of obstacles start popping up in our ego-mind to then decide, I don’t think I’m ready to write a book.
Ellen: Yeah. I had one client, it took her five years. I’ve had other people do it in a weekend. So yes, everybody’s different. And it also depends on what your topic is. If it’s something very personal versus if it’s something educational.
Jackie: Exactly. If it’s, yeah, just a “how-to” getting from A to B, and you’ve done it over and over and over again, and you can write it in your sleep, that’s one thing. If you’re writing a personal growth or self-help or something…
Jackie: … that more deeply personal or your personal story, then absolutely, it could take five years.
Ellen: So, what are the three levels?
Jackie: So, when you choose happiness, people always wonder, “Well, what is that?” When people say, “Oh, choose happiness,” and they also equate it to just positive emotions. And so, the first level of happiness represents just momentary feelings of joy and pleasure. Like when you, you know, that highness that you get when you’ve just, when you’re out dancing, or your friends or laughing, or you’re watching a good movie, or listening to a wonderful piece of music, or just having sex; those are all related to momentary feelings of joy and pleasure. However, they don’t last. That’s just transient. They’re, they’re pleasurable, good feelings, but they don’t last very long. So that’s just kind of a baseline of a happiness mental state.
But then there’s the level two happiness, which represents more about wellbeing. And those are questions about, if you were asked about how happy you are with your life in general, and you reflect on what that is for you, if you are enjoying a hobby, or you’re in a fulfilling relationship or job, then your level of happiness might be higher.
But those are feelings related to judgment. Those are feelings related to judgment or assessment of scenarios that are happening or not happening in your life. So, they’re comparative-type things. And those studies, you know, usually when you ask about countries that are happier than other countries or their wellbeing is greater than, you know, country A is wellbeing is greater than the U. S. or whatever. Those are always…
Ellen: They always talk about Bhutan.
[22:00] Jackie: Yeah. Bhutan and Denmark and all of those countries that are high on the wellbeing and happiness scale, that’s all measured based on scalable-type things. Like, are you happy in your job? Are you married? Are you in a happy relationship? What kind of schooling are you experiencing? The hobbies you’re doing, how much time you spend outside your housing situation, your financial world, you know, those are all wellbeing questions related to levels of happiness.
And then, there’s the level three happiness. And that is a much higher meaning of fulfillment, of one’s potential and achieving one’s potential, which is based on a higher meaning of self-realization. And that’s a little bit more difficult to measure because it’s subjective and it’s going to be different for everyone.
But if you are living in a more harmonious life where you are equated to your values, and you have fewer inner conflicts because your values give you meaning, and it’s contributing to a greater cause in your life of what your purpose is, and then you usually reached a more optimal level of happiness. So, the question is, where do people usually tend to choose happiness? And they usually tend to choose a level of happiness at level two is I’m not happy in my life because they’re comparing it to the Joneses. And it’s measurable, but it doesn’t go to a deeper level of fulfillment and purpose.
[23:24] And so, when people who are unhappy, for example, in their jobs, it’s usually because they’re unfulfilled. They’ve either outgrown what they’re doing because we are all growing, infinite beings, hopefully, and they’re not being mentally challenged or stimulated, and they are not leading or following their true level of potential, and that could be for a number of reasons. Then it can lead to a level of unhappiness and unfulfillment, which can also lead to bad habits, which can also lead to habits related to not eating well, alcoholism. It’s equated to higher levels of divorce rates and financial setbacks because there is no harmony happening in your life of your values, your purpose and your potential.
There is a misalignment of your values, your purpose and your potential. It’s like a three-legged stool. If you’re not practicing your values, following your purpose and fulfilling your potential, then that three-legged stool is going lead to imbalance, which then can cause levels of unfulfillment. and that leads to low self-esteem, low confidence, and self-doubt.
[25:00] Ellen: And what about the level of happiness between millennials and older people?
Jackie: So, millennials, like I said, they usually are looking at they’re feeling unhappy because they aren’t where they think they should be in their life. Granted they’re twenty-five years old or they’re not, they haven’t made $1 million yet. That’s all level two happiness of comparing themselves and their lifestyle too other people in their age group or to what people are doing on Instagram, living in whatever, some Malibu mansion and making $1 million, which is not necessarily every 25-year-old out there doing that. There’s the exceptions.
But this is what social media and what media in general has ingested in what I feel is garbage. Garbage in is not definitely garbage coming out. So, this level two happiness is also, causing deep sadness, deep lack of purpose. And so, people get and stay stuck, and they’re not going within because they’re focusing on what’s happening outside of them as opposed to tapping into their strengths, abilities, talents, and even weaknesses like we talked about.
[26:28] Ellen: And there are so many things that I want to ask you, and we’re running out of time. So, there’s two things I want to ask you before we go. And one of them is, what would you suggest people do to change their level of happiness?
[26:43] Jackie: Well, first of all, if you are going through what I call a transformation or you’re actually wanting to invest in your own personal and professional development, then you have to take a step toward it. And first, my first thing is, what I’m recognizing is people aren’t investing in their own personal and professional development.
So, yeah, you can read self-help books and that’s great if that helps you to create positive change. But you also have to want to choose change. And choosing change means changing habits and focusing more on what you want and less on what you don’t want. And once you start changing out what I call “meta habits.” Meta habits create greater habitability. Mehta habits are journaling. Journaling is probably one of the most therapeutic and cathartic ways and tools to actually improve the level of happiness, believe it or not; it’s been studied.
[27:50] People who journal, actually journal out their problems and have more, have better conflict resolution. And by doing so, you’re not walking around with problems on your shoulders. You’re actually expressing them. And by having a supportive team of people in your life, whether you have a supportive family, or friends, or tribe of people that help to elevate your potential and you have to want it. You have to want to put the energy toward it and not look to outside sources, necessarily, to create inner, positive change.
[28:34] Ellen: Yeah, I’ll tell you something. My best friends, I all met through my business and through social media. So, I highly suggest getting involved in social media if you’re not yet there.
[28:46] Jackie: Yeah. I think that there are good aspects of social media, and then there’s the scrolling mindless.
[28:52][ Ellen: It’s how you use it.
[28:57] Ellen: But when you’re using it well, I mean, I have better friends than I’ve ever had. I have more friends than I’ve ever had, good friends, not just people I know. So, I think it’s really great.
[29:08] Jackie: I agree. I think that there’s lots of tools that are offered through social media. I think if you’re putting focus and intention toward the right things and have the intention of, “I’m going to meet great people through social media.” or the intention of, “I’m looking for a tool that’s going to help me in my job or in my life or in my purpose,” then if there’s intention there, and you’re putting energy toward it, it’ll happen.
[29:38] Ellen: That’s also blocking the negative, blocking out people who are negative and who are argumentative; I just will not tolerate.
[29:45] Jackie: Yeah. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of negativity in the world, and it does take creating healthy boundaries that more and more people are learning after they’ve probably been bitten a couple of times by negativity or having negative people in their life and determining that your self-worth and your wellbeing needs to be protected and you need to be an advocate for yourself. I’m a big proponent of being a happiness advocate. You need to advocate for your level of wellbeing and happiness. And if that means that you’ve got to leave a bad marriage, or you’ve got to stop taking care of everybody else in order to first take care of yourself, then that’s what that means. And that means taking a stand and creating positive change and not everybody’s going to like that.
[30:38] You’re not going to necessarily be everybody’s fan because you said no.
[30:43] Ellen: And I really want to encourage people to follow Jackie and social media because you do great posts.
Jackie: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Ellen: Before we go, I just want to ask you one more thing. How has writing a book made an impact on your life in business?
[30:57] Jackie: Oh wow. It’s opened up so many different avenues and doors for me that were never, ever expected and some very wonderful surprises. I’ve been invited on podcasts like this and multiple different podcasts. I’ve been on TV. I’ve been on radio. I’ve talked to politicians. And I’ve been on panels for different discussions and topics from love to dating to wellbeing to economics to movies. So, it really opens up so many different types of doors and so many different levels that you can’t even imagine.
[31:38] And then you become an expert and your field because not only when you write a book and if you’re writing a book that makes an impact, then usually there’s a lot of research and data and important things that you’ve studied and know about that nobody else really does. And so then, by imparting information that makes an impact on people’s lives, then you do become the expert. And you know, what you say and what you have to offer to the world can make a big difference in someone’s life.
I can’t tell you how many people have sent me private messages on Facebook and I’ve never heard them on any of my posts, never wrote not one word, but at the end of a year, they write me a private message and said, “I’ve read every single post you’ve ever written and you’ve changed my life. I had the worst life ever this past year. You got me through it.”
[32:35] Ellen: Aw, that’s so great. Why don’t you tell people what’s your social media?
[32:42] Jackie: I know my website is jackieruka.com. And you can follow me on Facebook, which is www.facebook.com/jackierukahappinessmindset, which is on Facebook; that’s my business page. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m really big on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn.
[32:59] Ellen: Yeah, me too. That’s where I read you, on LinkedIn.
[33:02] Jackie: So that’s just LinkedIn.com/in/jackieruka. And I’m not on Twitter that much. I have my @gethappyzone Twitter account and I’ve put a bunch of positive posts on there if you’re on Twitter, but I’m really predominantly on LinkedIn and…
[33:19] Ellen: Yeah, follow her on LinkedIn, guys.
[33:21] Jackie: Yeah. And I have a blog if you ever want to read my blog posts and learn about my trainings and things of that nature on my website.
[33:31] Ellen: Well that’s great. Thank you so much.
[33:34] Jackie: Oh, you’re welcome.
[33:35] Ellen: Really great stuff. (I really want to encourage people to make themselves happy. I was really unhappy as a kid, and that’s why it took years of therapy. But, the biggest change, as I said, was doing what I love, doing what I wanted to do. And even within my business, I’ve changed direction so many times. If I get to a point where I’m just not happy with something, I change it or I seek help to figure out how to change it or what needs to be changed.) And it’s really important. And that’s why I created not just the book but also, we have a Facebook page, it’s actually a group. Anybody can join, and it’s facebook.com/groups/overcomingdepressionforentrepreneurs. And I really want to encourage everybody to join there if you’re ever feeling unhappy or depressed. And I would love to have you, Jackie, I would love to have you join the group and feel free to post in there and share.
[34:39] Jackie: Yeah, I didn’t even know you had that group. I have groups too, I don’t even talk about, but I have a group called Prosper for High Performing Professionals, and that also covers stress and depression and, you know, when you’re in a low point in your business and things of that nature. But I will definitely check out your group for sure.
[35:00] Ellen: Okay, great. Well, that’s it for today. To get the transcript, go to www.booksbusinessabundance.com/podcast and if you’re interested in becoming a number-one bestselling author, be sure to pick up a copy of my free Book-writing Blueprint, How to Create a Fast and Easy Roadmap to Success, which is on the podcast page at www.booksbusinessabundance.com/podcast. To continue the conversation, you can join our podcasting group at www.facebook.com/groups/booksbusinessabundance
That’s where you can ask questions, delve deeper into the topics that we cover on the podcast, and share comments and takeaways. And occasionally, I also do book giveaways in there. And I’m open to suggestions for other things you’d like to see in there. So, till next time,
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