Did you know that ‘having a sense of purpose’ is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy?

Maarten Van Damme

Maarten van Damme – founder of

63C62DCD999F1FD15E57AACE58C9FB9B-1024Did you know that ‘having a sense of purpose‘ is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy? (check ‘Unlocking happiness at work‘) But how to find this kind of purpose, and avoid becoming a ‘weekend-warrior’ ( = people who are only truly living from Saturday to Sunday)? And can you be happy if you can’t find your ‘purpose’, or are you doomed for a life of living for the future instead of for today? We asked those deep questions to ‘enthusiasm’-expert Maarten Van Damme. He specializes in coaching people to find happiness, authenticity and purpose in their life. Curious about his answers? Read on…

How do I find my purpose? What are great tips/habits/exercises to find out?

Unlocking Happiness at workFor me, this has even been my life goal, to find the purpose of my existence. And it still is an ongoing process. My talents and my business naturally drove me towards this niche, which makes it very ‘recognizable’ for our customers. I have been trying to explore this in all kinds of ways and areas. I searched it in material things, in traveling, in (extreme) sporting, in partying, in spirituality, … A good tip for finding that big ‘Why’ is to find the silence within and to listen to your sense/intuition. This may sound a bit too far out there for some, I get that. A good way to try and do this is finding out what touches you, what moves you in daily life or on television. What is it that triggers your emotions? For myself, I learned that when something makes you cry, or at least makes your eyes burn, that it’s your soul that is guiding you to your true purpose. Every human gets a backpack of talents in life to fulfill its purpose. This can be very general and divided into different parts. For example, many people feel the purpose to help others. Whether this means being a good partner, parent, employee/entrepreneur, being involved in organizations, … It is all a matter of finding your silence in a society that is always busy, hasty, and has an overload of information. Go looking for that piece of silence and listen what your heart, your feeling, your intuition and your nature have to say. And when you do find that purpose you keep tuning in on it, because you also keep evolving. The answer is really just hidden within yourself. A book about finding your purpose that I really recommend is “The alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

What if I don’t feel like I have a real purpose in my life/job? Is that a problem? Or can I just be as happy without a ‘plan’?

originalOf course you can be just as happy without that purpose. For some, it simply boils down to being happy about their job, their family life, their hobbies without asking further questions. If everyone would just be satisfied about the life they’re leading and be good to others, the world would already look like a different place. It is only when suffering, misfortune, or exhaustion/burn-out occurs that people start asking questions. “Is this really what I want?” For example people who’ve been employed at a bank, but would like to make a switch and help people in another way. Besides all this, life is all about finding the balance between holding on and letting it go. In my opinion there is a bigger force at work guiding us in a certain direction where you have the possibility to explore your full potential and lead a life full of ‘purpose’.

A good way to find your purpose is to check on a daily basis what moves you in life, on television, … What is it exactly that triggers your emotions?

How is authenticity linked with happiness at work according to you?

Happiness at work CutesolutionsThe more authentic you can be at work and in life, the safer and recognized you feel as a person. Being authentic, first of all, is about knowing yourself, which is a number one condition to be a strong leader in my opinion. Knowing your own strengths and pitfalls makes it easier to work together with others and be more open to feedback. Being authentic also means that you allow yourself to be vulnerable. And happiness? Happiness to me is about being who you really are, good days and bad days. That way you support each other as colleagues. This enables a supportive, authentic culture where there is room for feedback. That, for me, is the description of a happy working environment.

What is your recommended ‘TOP 3 habits’ list for more happiness at work?

  1. Take good care of yourself: eat healthy, get some exercise, get enough rest, …
  2. Try and get to know yourself: what are your talents, what is your purpose, how do you want to evolve, …
  3. Get to know your colleagues well and become a solid team with clear goals and working agreements.

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Happiness at work – Habit Magazine

Hi fellow habit lovers,

I am so happy to share with you our latest habit magazine on ‘happiness at work’.

In reflecting on my own deeply held thoughts about happiness, I discovered that I have a primarily Buddhist-like belief that happiness is about the understanding and avoidance of suffering. It comes down to this naive and under-developed idea that if I could make all the stresses, the anxieties, traffic, micro-managing clients and non-stop pinging of smartphone notifications go away, I would be happy. Or that worst case I can meditate my way (as I do, 20 minutes a day) out of being affected by these stressors and still be happy.

Turns out the above-mentioned 2 approaches haven’t changed me into an always-smiling buddha just yet. 😉

So it’s about time we investigate this fuzzy matter of happiness in our usual pragmatic and habit-focused way!

What you will discover in this magazine:

  • Habits for bonding with your colleagues.
  • Habits on ’embracing the suck’.
  • How to be the boss that makes them happy?
  • A deep dive into finding your purpose at work.
  • How to boost your happiness hormones?
  • Tips from happiness experts from all over the world (Gretchen Rubin, Daniel Gilbert, Neil Pasricha, …).

Read Magazine

Hope we’ll be able to inspire you to pick up a new happiness habit too!

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We asked 6 inspirational TED speakers and authors for 1 tip to increase happiness at work

How can you increase happiness on the job?

Our next Habit Magazine is going to be around happiness at work and we decided to ask several inspirational authors, professors and TED speakers, for a personal tip on how they think happiness can improve in the workplace.

I made a short list of some our Cutesolutions ‘gurus’ who have inspired us in one way or another, since we started Cutesolutions 14 years ago, and a couple of hours later my email asking for a tip was on it’s way. I send only 6 emails and one week later I was flabbergasted when I had an answer back from each one of our 6 gurus!!

So in today’s Habit Blog we want to share with you some happiness advice from Adam Grant (New York Times Best Selling author; Give and Take), Charles Duhigg (New York Times best selling author; Smarter, Faster and Better), Rubin Gretchen (New York Times best selling author; The Happiness Project), Emma Seppala (Science director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Stanford University), Neil Pasricha (New York Times best selling author of The Happiness Equation) and Daniel Gilbert (Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, author of Stumbling on Happiness).

Adam Grant

“If you want to become happier at work, don’t wait for your boss to do something about it. Look for a way to reinvent your own job. Use a skill or strength you aren’t leveraging, ask around about new side projects, figure out how something you love doing might help your team.”

Charles Duhigg

“In term of happiness in the workplace, I think it’s perhaps most important to set realistic expectations for yourself. Overloading one’s plate is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Carefully examine what you have to do, and remember to take breaks – give your brain a rest every once in a while.”

Rubin Gretchen

“Make a friend at work. Friendship is a key – perhaps the key – to a happy life, and it’s important to feel a close connection to at least one person who’s part of your work life.”

Emma Seppala

“Be kind.”

Neil Pasricha

Happiness tip for Sarah (Owner Cutesolutions)?

“If you’re Sarah, trust your gut. You already know what to do.”

For everyone else?

“Make sure you have the 4 S’s in your workplace: Social (friends you like), Structure (a reason to get up), Stimulation (always learning), and Story (being part of something bigger than yourself).

Daniel Gilbert

“Find someone at your level or at a lower level who deserves a compliment, and then send them a note telling them how much you appreciate what they do and how well they do it. At least two people will be happier.”

What have you done today to increase happiness on the job? Have a happiness tip you want to share? Please leave your tip in the comment section below!

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Ever Heard of Stress Inoculation?

Whenever you experience stress, your brain releases cortisol and DHEA. That can be bad news. Let us explain. Higher levels of cortisol have been associated with bad outcomes, such as a weakened immune system and depression.

stress inoculation

But there is good news too! A stressful event also triggers DHEA and higher levels of DHEA (which you can compare to a kind of steroid for your brain) have been linked to reduced risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, degeneration of our brains and other diseases we typically think of as stress-related.

So the ratio between cortisol and DHEA (called the growth index) will determine if the stress wil be good or bad for you. There is even more good news. You can influence your own – or somebody else’s – growth index.

One strategy is to choose a more positive mindset toward stress. Make a conscious choice when you’re stressed to view stress as helpful, and the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. This mindset can actually shift your stress physiology toward a state that makes such a positive outcome more likely, for example by increasing your growth index and reducing harmful side effects of stress such as inflammation.

Want to learn more? Read this TED blog here.

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Webinars: An Under-Used Gem for Organizational Habit Change?

Going Beyond Happy Sheets

Have your organization and you been looking for measurable and effective ways

  • to change people’s behaviours?
  • to create a cultural change through behavioural change?
  • to deliver training programmes that go beyond making people ‘happy’ and one-time ‘action plans’, yet actually result in sustainable habit change?

This is precisely what we at CUTESolutions, a Belgium-based learning and development organization, have been doing for the last 14 years. We are dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organisations change their habits. We could have made our lives easier aiming for more achievable ‘happy sheet’ goals, considering that habit change has an average success rate of 12% (across different domains of research such as fitness, diet and health).

CHECK OUT: 3 Complete Habit-Focused Training Programs for Managers and Employees.

Turning the 88% Failure Rate Upside Down

In the past two years, we have achieved significant success in habit change (73% of our participants experience a daily habit change six months after their programme) for our customers (more information on using interactive and pull-based webinars as a learning tool. We have been experimenting a lot with the use of interactive and pull-based webinars as a way to support the habit change of our participants on a more continuous and in real-time basis.

Why are Webinars a Powerful Tool for Supporting Habit Change?

To understand why webinars make sense as a supporting learning-and-development tool for habit change, it is interesting to understand why habit change usually fails.

Problem #1: Willpower Depletion

Longer-format training programmes promote big change and provide lots of inputs. People feel inspired to get started and set big behavioural-change goals for themselves. When it comes to habit change, this is the same as setting themselves up for failure. ‘Lower the bar’ makes more sense for habit creation: start small and trust in the accelerating power of small wins (Stanford Researcher Kelly McGonigal, The Science of Will-power).

The Solution that Webinars Provide

Bite-sized learning: People learn more a little at a time than a lot. Weekly or monthly webinars of maximum one hour are much more feasible to fit into people’s busy agendas than half-day or full-day training programmes. This approach prevents the willpower depletion that most people experience after an extensive training programmes with too many inputs.

Problem #2: Decision Depletion

We all have limited capacity for the number of decisions we can make on a daily basis. Furthermore, our brains do not differentiate between the importnat (‘How can I apply what I have learned from this training in my business as usual?’) and the non-important (‘What will I have for lunch today?’). So if participants do not decide during the training exactly how and when they will apply their new habit, our habit conversation rates go down immediately.

The Solution that Webinars Provide

Focused on Routines: One-hour webinars focus on specific routines that people can get started with immediately after they’ve completed the session. We focus on the smallest possible things that people can do on a daily basis (Tiny Habits, Stanford Professor BJ Fogg), but that are evidence-based proven to have the biggest possible impact. The key word in the last sentence might just be ‘focus’: no broad theoretical explanations, making webinars one-directional and non-engaging, but a laser-sharp focus on specific and easy-to-implement routines. This makes it unnecessary for participants to have to ‘decide’ or figure out for themselves how they can apply what they have learned after the training. During the webinar, people are asked to decide exactly ‘when’ or what the trigger for this new habit will be. This small step easily increases our conversation rate by 30% (Charles Duhigg, Habit Loops)

Problem #3: Planning Fallacy

Planning fallacy is a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias and underestimate the time that is actually likely to be needed. It is also our experience that people tend to underestimate how challenging it will be to change their habits.

The Solution That Webinars Provide

Remarkably, whilst we as human beings are not so accurate at estimating our own attempts at habit change, we are much much better at estimating other people’s predictions. As a result, another guiding principle int he design of our webinars, is it make them ‘pull-based’, i.e. based ont eh reality, the needs, the challenges of our participants. We also make them ‘interactive’: we used specific webinar features such as pre-webinar surveys, polls, chat, live calls, write-boards, and format for peer-coaching (participants follow webinars with a group of peers and coach each other on building new habits using our Habit Creation Method) to support engagement, social reinforcement, and commitment.

Cutesolutions Webinars

Our conclusion is that with the right design of a webinar track (interactive, pull-based, focused on the small daily things, and on a regular basis) webinars have the potential to fix a lot of what is wrong with traditional long-format training programmes.

Learn more about CUTESolutions at and

Is the New Way of Working a scam?

Habit AHA: The New Way of Working doesn’t exist

So it all started with Microsoft in 2005. They stated that NWoW is a different way of working and collaboration supported by the latest technology. But after a while, every company that adapted NWoW gave their own, slightly adjusted definition of this ‘new way of working’ … !

habit aha

So. It’s a scam?

No, it just looks like there isn’t only 1 new way of working, but that you can define it to your own taste and company … Once you ask the ‘old way’ of working into question, you start building a new, personalised way of working.

But how do I know if I am working old or new?

There is a way to know if you work in NWoW environment or not … We searched, and found the basic building blocks that make an NWoW company! Check them out! Are you working NWoW or not?

Tips and Tools for the Smarter working professional


Is your working space working? Do the Leesman-survey to find out! Leesman helps organisations understand how their employees work and how well their spaces support productivity. It’s a great tool in preparing your organization to go NWoW!

Create your workplace!

Once you know your needs, use buzzispace to bring silence and style to your new office.

Enhance your success!

Enhance the success of the distributed learder and teams in you organization with ‘workevohlution‘: specialized in assessments and consulting on ‘distributed work’.

Install new habits!

Install new habits to create NWoW behaviours in your new environment! Click here for some habit-inspiration.

Activity based working

One thing every NWoW’er is doing, is activity-based working: a workplace strategy in which people vary their workplace according to the nature of their work. But even if you have the opportunity to work elsewhere, the question stays: when, where, and how do you work best? We went to ask Philip Vanhoutte (‘Smarter Working Professional’, in a previous life senior VP and managing director at Plantronix and co-author of the book ‘The smarter working manifesto‘) his TOP tips for the smarter working professionals!

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How to shift your focus from being busy to being productive?

Deep Work

Cultivate Deep Work Habits

How to shift your focus from being busy to being productive? It’s time to cultivate some deep work habits!

What’s is deep work?

You are doing deep work when you are focused, without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.

The result of deep work?

You are able to learn hard things when doing deep work, deliver high level quality work and work at a higher level of productivity!

The difference between deep work and shallow work?

Often, we focus our attention on “shallow work”: tasks that do not require distraction-free focus, are logistical and don’t create massive amounts of value for your company! For example: responding to e-mails, going to meetings, …

Did you know that you are suffering from attention residue?

When you switch your attention from “deep work”, to some shallow work (for example: just glancing at your mailbox), and then back to deep work, it reduces your mental capacity. It takes on average 15-25 minutes before, you can experience back the same deep focus, because there is a residue left from that distraction.

Exercise with these “bored and brilliant” challenges!

Stop the madness

Check out: “Deep Work” – Book of Cal Newport

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How to keep breathing with a busy agenda!

Habit hero of the week: Casto Cañavate

Habits from a true less stress, more energy hero.

Casto Cañavate is without any doubt a true less stress and more energy hero. As someone with a high demanding job, lots of responsibilities, and a big to-do list every day, Casto Cañavate manages with some proper discipline and habits to do it all – and most important, not get totally stressed out.

In today’s Habit Blog, he shares with you 3 habit tips on how to keep breathing with a busy agenda!

Casto: It is a pleasure for me to be part of the Habit Magazine, “Less Stress, More Energy”… What first comes to my mind is: do sport, enjoy what you do (professional and personal-wise) and be positive! Having said this, I will be more practical:

Own system.

After attending training, webinars and reading many books… Make your own conclusion and set up your own system. Personally, I set-up my own based on the best from Getting Things Done (by D. Allen) and Eat That Frog (by B. Tracy).

Be Realistic.

People tend to put more on their plates than they can eat. Don’t fool yourself. No matter if you are a 4, 8 or even more hour work person a day. In my case, I plan what I will do daily/weekly/monthly and I will focus on it. In addition, I estimate 20% buffer for those unexpected last minute issues.

Challenge yourself.

At work, it is very common to repeat tasks/projects. That’s boring! Whenever I have to repeat something, I first think how to improve it. Hence, this will be fun, you will love it and, subsequently, you will deliver better performance.

All the best, Casto Cañavate

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Less Stress? Sorry to disappoint you.

Less stress, more energy?

Maybe you are hoping for the holy grail for less stress and more energy. Some secret herb, a smart brain hack, a wonder technique. But we believe that the next big thing, will be a lot of small things.

List of things you should be doing

  1. Meditate 20 minutes a day
  2. Work with a To Do List
  3. Make time for strategic reflection and planning
  4. Do yoga
  5. Say no more often
  6. Ban negative people from your life
  7. Don’t focus on the bad stuff
  8. Get enough sleep
  9. Go to the gym or exercise 3x a week
  10. Plan more

Can we pick your brain? How many of these things do you do weekly? Let us know in the comment section below!

But there’s a reason you are not doing these things.

They’re just way too big! Habits follow the path of least resistance: if it’s more easy for you to do it than not to do it (like drink coffee), it will become a habit. But if it requires too much willpower, you’re chances of succeeding in changing your habits are 12%.

The only solution? Follow the advice of Stanford professor BJ Fogg: make it so small you have no reason not to do it.

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Mommy Management

How to manage your time between life and work.

Life can feel pretty hectic. Especially when you don’t have to manage just your calendar, but also have kids-schedules to take into account! How to manage your time between life and work? What are tiny habits that really could make a difference for working parents out there? We asked the mommies at the CUTE office & these are their time-management tips!

Time management habits on the night before…

1. Set the breakfast table the night before: plates, cutlery, glasses, etc.

2. Decide which clothes you are going to wear the next day, and do the same for your children (or let them choose their favorite shirt or jeans before bed time).

3. Prepare their bag pack for the next school day: bottle of water, fruit and a biscuit – if you do this in the morning rush you have a big chance to forget something (I speak from experience).

Time management habits to make it easier…

4. Our daughter has her own mailbox and online calendar, this way we (mum & dad) both have access to all the communication she receives from her athletics club, school, etc. The online calendar is great to schedule all the school holidays and match it with our own personal & business calendars. This way we can double check if we have a back-up (like a babysit) when we’re not available to stay at home with her.

5. Don’t spend your evenings creating healthy meals for your children, let them eat at school, soup is included most of the time and this way they can enjoy a hot meal with their friends. After school time they are tired and only want to eat bread with a cup of hot milk and enjoy their favorite cartoon.

6. Check out the services of your nearby supermarket and schedule to pick-up your groceries (once a week, at a fixed day) instead of running every day to the shop for last-minute grocery shopping. If you have the space, buy in big volumes, like toilet paper, tissues, shampoo, etc. Limit your supermarket visits to twice a week, try to avoid the busy Saturdays in the shops.

7. Create a food calendar and decide what you are going to eat the next 7 days, and add the ingredients to your shopping cart or grocery list.

I’ll share some hard-earned mommy insights that might be useful to you. Wouldn’t be fair to keep my supermom-secrets all to myself 😉

Reparation is key!

1. Always keep a pair of high heels and sneakers in your car. You never know what’s around the corner and versatility is our middle name!

2. Evening preparation is key. Even picking out what to wear tomorrow (aside from your supermom-cape) will save you time.

3. Install a rewarding system for putting on their own clothes. I lay them out on the floor, so when my son wakes up all he needs to do is put his clothes on in the right order. That way, I get the time I need to put my make-up on and look like I have my shit together.

Blur the lines: work at home – home at work

1. Blur the lines, despite what experts say. Do work at home and home at work. For me there is a lot of overlapping and that helps me to stay reasonably calm and together. Pay your bills at the office during your lunch hour, and check your work e-mail at home while you’re waiting for the kids to show up at the dinner table. Whatever gets things done.

2. Do your grocery shopping during your work break when possible. Save yourself the hustle of shopping after school with tired kids. We all know the drama scenario’s that might take place. Don’t. Just don’t.


Enjoy the little things

1. Take them with you. Find a way to turn your me-time into quality time. My son loves going to the gym with me. Make them feel comfortable, get them something they like to eat or play with. Of course, this all depends on how many kids you have and whether their character allows them to stay calm for over an hour and not tear the place down.

2. Don’t forget to smile and enjoy even the small rush-moments. Sometimes life is easier if you learn to embrace the chaos now and then. The less you force things, the more they seem to go your way. Same with children.

At the risk of coming across as emotional unstable, I do want to say that I totally agree with this quote I found. Because there is so much truth in it. Working moms these days are kind of superhero’s, but most of all moms.

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