Zoe on a mountain top with her arms outstretched

The Cake of Happiness

The Cake of Happiness! 

A lot of the work I do is aimed at helping people to be happier, but what does happiness really mean? 

I like to think of happiness as having three distinct layers. Like a huge Victoria sponge cake. 

A three layer cake topped with fresh fruit
Like a big cake, there are three layers of happiness

The top layer (which has the most icing and looks the most attractive) is the JOY layer. The rush of chemicals to our brain that feels amazing, raises our heart-rate and has us beaming with wide smiles. 

Joy is the most short-lived of the layers of happiness but the one that seems to get all of the attention. If you seek joy without making sure that the layers underneath it are in place, you can find that your joy lacks meaning and depth, so it’s worth building your cake from the bottom up so that your joy really is the icing on your happiness cake. 

Doing things that bring you joy is the icing on your cake – but it’s no good is the supporting layers aren’t strong too.

The middle layer is your contentment and satisfaction. Contentment and satisfaction are fundamental to our overall happiness, and being in this zone can give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, less intense than joy but no less enjoyable. This is also where engaging in your passions sits, providing a centre that supports your joy and builds on your sense of purpose. 

This middle layer holds the cake together and gives it structure. A three tier cake is much more spectacular that a simple two layer cake and is much more rewarding to enjoy. 

Contentment and satisfaction can come from engaging in your passions, keeping things simple and allowing gratitude.

The bottom layer that supports everything else is the sense of leading a purposeful life. It stabilises the cake of happiness and provides a strong base. Your sense of identity is also found in your bottom layer. 

It seems that this part of our happiness becomes more relevant as we get older and it can give us a feeling of being secure. It underpins our contentment and satisfaction, and enables us to feel deep joy. 

Although we’ve applied the cake metaphor to our happiness, it also applies to our success, performance and business structures. 

Applying the Cake to Business Happiness

The base layer, or feeling of purpose, includes certainty about why we do what we do, and who we are being while we do it. Think of this as your strategic level. When you are clear about why you are doing something, it makes the next steps much easier. Getting clarity on this level supports a structure that makes decision making and action taking easy, because it is underpinned by your values and your purpose. Something that can really help here is spending time exploring what success looks like to you. Make sure you’re clear about how success will feel and what part happiness plays in your vision of success. 

Once you are clear on your strategy for happiness, you can move up to your tactical level. This layer is where you can easily over-complicate your plans and get confused about what actions to take. Overwhelm is often a symptom of a problem at this level of your cake. Being clear about your tactics helps you to deliver your strategy, and to correct your course if you’ve lost your way. I like to ask the question ‘ how simple can you make it?’ in order to help iron out any complications that are getting in the way of happiness at this level. 

Keeping your tactical direction simple can avoid overwhelm and make decision making easy

Your joy layer is your action-taking, or operational layer. Once you’re clear on your strategy and you have a simple tactical direction, you can take decisive action on taking the steps to success and happiness. At this level you can look at the daily or regular actions that you take and make sure that they are helping you achieve your happiness goals. You can check that you are doing enough of the things that bring you joy, and letting go of the aspects of life that reduce your joy in order to allow your joy to flow freely to you. 

Many of my clients come to me searching for their happiness. I can usually help them to find it because I know where to look. Your values, beliefs and other components combine to create your sense of purpose. I’ve found many people’s life purpose with them and it transforms their outlook on life. If people come to me feeling stuck, rudderless or lacking in drive, I’d usually start their coaching journey at the bottom layer of their cake and work up from there. 

Try exploring when you’ve felt at your natural best and the times when you have felt the most yourself to help you to find your strategic direction. 

When it comes to goal setting, check that your goals relate to the layers of your happiness cake so that you know that reaching them, and working towards them will bring you the maximum amount of happiness. 

Success can mean different things for everyone. Make sure that your goals support your happiness and success!

Hopefully you are baking your own cake of happiness today and everyday. 

If you are missing any ingredients, perhaps adding mindfulness, gratitude and kindness will help it to rise and to be more spectacular than ever – and if you need some help finding your own recipe, give me a call and we can create something perfect together. 

With love and a big cake of happiness, 

Zoé xx

About the Author

Zoe Carroll

Zoe Carroll is a wellbeing and performance specialist with expertise in neurodiversity and inclusion. She creates training and delivers coaching to develop team cohesion and improve communication within teams. She shares insights into how people can understand each other better in order to both communicate internally and externally to increase productivity and other performance variables while also improving the wellbeing of team members.

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