Happiness & Wellness In A Digital World – Dr. Anna Akbari


Finding Happiness & Wellness In A Digital World

The digital world is growing faster than ever, but how it is really helping us to create better wellness, loving relationships, and true happiness in our modern world?

On this episode of Wellness + Wisdom, sociologist, entrepreneur, innovation consultant, and the author of Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, Dr. Anna Akbari shares how we can find both happiness and wellness in a digital world.

Listen and learn how to bring more wellness into your life as we dive deep into a discussion about career and life choices, relationships, and money in today's modern life.

Think Like a Startup

To change her life, Dr. Akbari had to start analyzing each of her decisions like a startup company would approach them.

Even though Dr. Anna Akbari had a wonderful career in New York City and academia at New York University and Parsons New School for Design, she eventually realized that it was not enough to sustain her happiness and wellness forever.

Following just one career path was not all that Dr. Akbari wanted to succeed at during her lifetime. She knew deep down inside that there had to be something more.

One day, she woke up and finally decided it was time to pivot her life. Craving nature, new work projects, expanding her career and life possibilities, Dr. Akbari made the plan to move to California. Academia was her comfort zone but she knew she could be happier if she added more practical passions to the mix.

Pausing our lives, pivoting, and making a major change isn't the easiest choice, but it could be what changes the direction of our journey forever.

On this episode of Wellness + Wisdom, sociologist, entrepreneur, innovation consultant, and the
author of Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness, Dr. Anna Akbari shares how we can start new careers, move to a new city, and find both happiness and wellness in a digital world.

Listen and learn how to bring more wellness into your life as we dive deep into a discussion about career and life choices, relationships, and money in today's modern life.

Happiness Architecture

How we can design our lives so that we can create the life that we want.

Mental models hold us hostage in thinking that there's only one singular path that we have to follow to be happy and successful. Like a startup trying new tactics and finding better solutions, we can invert the truth about how a life should be lived and begin anew.

We can afford to take chances, unlearn something, and innovate. We don't need to make a geographical change like Dr. Akbari did by moving from New York City to California, but we can find new ways to reinvent ourselves and be more open take chances.

When we get outside of our comfort zone, we can make it easier for ourselves to pivot our lives in order to increase our wellness and happiness. 

The 3 Part Formula for Happiness & Success

If we get to a point in life where we know we can no longer stay with the same unrewarding job, a lot of us need to pivot our careers or find a new place to live like Dr. Akbari did to rediscover her wellness and happiness. While moving to a completely different location or leaving our work field for another career may not be entirely feasible, there is a formula we can use to evaluate and choose our next move.

During our interview, Dr. Akbari shares her 3 Part Formula for Happiness and Success and how we can apply it to our lives.

Simply ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Passion: What is something that you are passionate about?
  2. Practicality: What are you skilled at or could be good at?
  3. Audience: What does your audience demand?

If all of these three areas successfully intersect, then you've created your own secret sauce for happiness and success.  

Listen to Episode 106 as Dr. Akbari Uncovers

  • Why Dr. Akbari decided to title her book, “Startup Your Life” and how it relates to her personal life.
  • What her experience was like during the 2008 recession as a working professional.
  • How “pivoting” can help us improve our careers, relationships, wellness, and more.
  • The biggest pivot that Dr. Akbari has made in her life when she decided to leave New York City.
  • Happiness Architecture: Digital Happiness in our modern world.
  • How Dr. Akbari is able to handle decision fatigue throughout the day.
  • What digital happiness can look like in 2017.
  • How we can design our lives so that we can create the life that we want to create.
  • What Dr. Akbari did to invert all of her assumptions about what would happen if she left NYC and took a chance to move to California.
  • How do we know if we should drastically change our environments or stay where we are?
  • What can we do to get rid of some of the facts that we used to believe about ourselves? How can we get rid of old software to start anew?
  • Why Dr. Akbari decided to include the following quote in her book from Paramahana Yoganana: “Since you alone are responsible for your thoughts, only you can change them.”
  • The 3 Part Formula for Happiness according to Dr. Akbari.
  • How we can strategically spend money to help our feelings of well-being and security.
  • Can love and relationships really thrive in this digital age? How does each gender play a part?
  • How do men and women feel empowered in the world of technology? How do we socialize without technology?
  • Why ghosting is one of the most selfish things a person can do in both their personal and professional lives.

TEDxSiliconAlley, 2011 – Anna Akbari – Digital Happiness


Top 3 Takeaways From The Show

  • Pivoting can help us improve anything we want to actively change in our lives. Our careers, relationships, or wellness can all benefit from pivoting. We can become better “pivoters” when we don't invest in the idea of what our singular outcome will be. If we keep an open mind and if we're experimenting with how we'll get to where we want to be, then the constant feedback will help us readjust our input. It's always good to remember to not be too over-attached to something that wasn't even feasible in the first place.
  • Relationships, both personal and professional, have changed because of all of the new digital technology. We're so used to online dating that for someone to actually come up to us and ask us out in person can seem strange and even intimidating. The digital age has really affected the roles that both men and women play in relationships. Now there are all of these new terms like catfishing and ghosting that are really affecting our relationships with each other. We've gotten so used to moving from one relationship to the next through dating apps, they we don't take the time to really dig deep into one relationship.
  • Conventional pieces of wisdom such as “money cannot buy happiness” is affecting the way we see money today. What a lot of people don't realize is that without money, we don't have the ability to create, thrive, nor relax. How we spend our money can affect our wellness and happiness. If we spend our money more strategically by investing in experiences, it can help build long-term happiness compared to buying objects. If we're worried that a life decision will set us back financially, we have to be honest with ourselves. Will it just slightly lower some of the luxuries that aren't bringing us happiness or will it threaten our well-being and security?

Power Quotes From Dr. Anna Akbari

  • “Since you alone are responsible for your thoughts, only you can change them.” – Paramahana Yoganana
  • “The actions I did weren't necessarily glamorous decisions, but they were actions that many people think are out of reach for them. The difference is that I was trying to figure out life hacks and how to do things that might immediately seem inaccessible. That is what startups do all the time. That's what they have to do all the time to be relevant and to beat out the major competition. The more I applied that thinking to my life, the more of an edge I got and the happier I was.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on how she was able to startup her life.
  • “It's easier to be happy in the sludge. Much of our life is spent in the sludge. It's not all spent in those top-of-your-game milestones. We think that achieving those milestones will make us happy, but it's really all of those in-between moments that we have to sort out along the way that bring us joy.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on how working towards achievements is what brings us purpose and makes us happy. 
  • “As devastating as it was, I think the 2008 recession was actually really liberating for a lot of people. A lot of my friends and peers had been relatively unhappy in their life and career paths. Then everything that they had always taken for granted was pulled out from underneath them. So they thought to themselves, “Well, I should just go do what I want to do if this career that I don't want to do isn't secure anymore.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on the effect of the 2008 USA recession and how people realized that they could change their careers to something that they love to do. 
  • “Stop investing in so much of what the initial idea of what your singular outcome can be. If you're always thinking about what you're working toward and if it's only towards one thing, then you're not going to be open to a pivot. Any kind of shift in your focus or in the outcome is going to feel like a failure and an unacceptable outcome.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on what can hold us back from pivoting and therefore making a successful change in our lives.
  • “We've been taught over and over again that we should focus on one thing and really excel at it so that we can climb the ranks. But that's not the correct path for a lot of us; especially if we have different interests or just want to diversify our income. Following a singular path is not the only or right path for most people.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on why pivoting and changing our paths can be the right thing for a lot of us. 
  • “When I started following my heart and not doing just what was immediately professionally practical, all of these new professional opportunities for success started flowing in.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on how her biggest pivot to move from New York City to California helped her find happiness in her career. 
  • “We're at this interesting point in time when technology is such a crucial element of our lives and it affords us so many wonderful conveniences and yet, as we all know, it simultaneously diminishes and deteriorates the quality of our lives.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on digital happiness.
  • “Why does this magnificent applied science which saves work and also makes live easier bring us so little happiness?” – Albert Einstein on how technology can bring us very little happiness. 
  • “Wherever you go, there you are.” – Josh Trent
  • “The more that we can keep our minds ripe and ready for change, the better we will be. Constantly pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone or introducing new variables into our lives will keep us fresh.” – Dr Anna Akbari on how we can be open to change and be rid of old software or false beliefs. 
  • “Your opportunity for both success and happiness is at this intersection of what you're passionate about, what you're actually skilled at or could become skilled at, and what people are demanding. If you can find an intersection of those three things and use that to interrogate which passions are viable and which aren't, you're going to have a much smoother and happier path.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on her advice to clients on how to interrogate their passions for happiness and success.
  • “When it comes to money and happiness, it's less about specific numbers and more about the choices that surround those numbers. Studies find that the amount of money you make matters less than how you spend it. While money alone can't buy happiness, strategic spending can significantly enhance your well-being.” – Dr. Anna Akbari in chapter 8 (Hustle and Grow) of her book, Startup Your Life. 
  • “Finding happiness is not so much in trading to a new novelty, but rather digging deeper. Really taking the time to put in the work is the key component with relationships.”  – Dr. Anna Akbari
  • “To follow my heart and not just always be thinking about being practical. If you follow your heart and you keep the 3 Part Formula (passion, audience, and practicality) in mind, then you will be happy.” – Dr. Anna Akbari's advice on being happy. 
  • “Everyone has their tipping point when they know that something is a breaking point for them. We all have to decide what that is for us and submit to it when that time comes. Embrace it and reflect on it so that we can grow. We don't grow the most when we're actually thriving. We grow the most when we've had some kind of failure and are forced to reflect and make something of it.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on what we can learning from trying something new. 
  • “We might not like everything that we see happening in the world and we can't always change all of that, but we can decide how we're going to design our lives and how we want to touch the communities that we encounter on an every day basis. ” – Dr. Anna Akbari on what kind of legacy she wants to leave. 
  • “Wellness is about creating balance. Whether it's sleep, diet, exercise, or meditation while also never forgetting the value of spontaneity.” – Dr. Anna Akbari on what wellness means to her. 

Anna Akbari: “Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness” | Talks at Google

About Dr. Anna Akbari

Dr. Anna Akbari

is a sociologist, entrepreneur, innovation consultant, and writer.  She is a former professor in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication and the department of Art and Art Professions at New York University, as well as the Art and Design History and Theory department at Parsons The New School for Design. Her research focuses on visual and virtual self-presentation, technology and human intersects, dating and interpersonal relationships, and happiness and well-being.

Akbari is the founder of Sociology of Style, which takes an intelligent approach to image and well-being and offers holistic image consulting and life coaching services.  She also created the Sociology of TV, which offers videos and white papers on the social significance of television media in public spaces.

She is a partner in HVCK, an innovation consultancy, and the co-creator of the Silicon Valley Insider's Edge video series for entrepreneurs and enterprise employees.

Resources Mentioned by Dr. Akbari & Josh

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About The Author, Lauren Bryant, Podcast Production

lauren bryant wellness forceLauren Bryant is the Podcasting Assistant and Show Notes Writer for Wellness + Wisdom. She has a BBA in both Marketing and Spanish for Business as well as certificates in Advanced Business Communications and International Business from the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

Lauren’s wellness journey began at a young age when she joined her local YMCA swim team, The Wave, of La Crosse, WI. One of the most profound views on wellness that anyone has said to her was when she was an assistant swim coach for that same YMCA swim team.

One day during a practice, former head swim coach, Jon Brenner, shared with her that the most important thing about coaching the swimmers was that “It doesn’t matter if they become the best athletes in the world. What’s important is that we give them the tools and guidance they need to live a healthy, active lifestyle for the rest of their lives.”

Since hearing those words, she has taken it to heart to not only focus on continuously living her own healthy lifestyle, but to help others pursue their wellness goals as well.

Lauren’s not only an avid swimmer, but a fan of running, yoga, cooking, and doing any activity outside that involves being surrounded by nature. In the Fall of 2014, she completed a long-awaited goal of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

According to Lauren, wellness is about finding gratitude and joy in doing any type of physical or self-care activity that we love. Wellness means providing ourselves with self-love, good nutrition, and the inner peace that our individual minds and bodies need.


About Josh Trent

Josh Trent lives in Austin, Texas with his love Carrie Michelle, son Novah, daughter Nayah + a cat named Cleo. He is the host of the Wellness + Wisdom Podcast and the creator of the BREATHE: Breath + Wellness Program. Josh has spent the past 20+ years as a trainer, researcher + facilitator discovering the physical and emotional intelligence for humans to thrive in our modern world. Helping humans LIBERATE their mental, emotional, physical, spiritual + financial self through podcasts, programs + global community that believe in optimizing our potential to live life well.

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