DeVaughn Narratives

Creating digital stories that resonate and inspire

Month: July 2016

Does More Time Off Makes Us More Productive?

Does More Time Off Makes Us More Productive?

Time off - VacationMost Americans take some time off during the summer, and I’m no exception. Most years I take a staycation. But, in 2013 and again in 2015, I was blessed where I could take my family to Europe. Since I would have no access to phone or email, I had to wrap up all loose ends prior to my vacation so my co-workers wouldn’t have to deal with any messes while I was away.

Those weeks leading up to my vacation turned out to be some of my most productive weeks. Essentially, I had accomplished more work in less time. So, I began to ponder if it was possible to work fewer hours and actually be more productive.

Europeans certainly get more vacation than Americans. By law, every country in the European Union has a minimum annual entitlement of four weeks’ vacation in addition to bank and public holidays. In stark contrast, the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have statutory requirements on employers to provide paid vacation, holiday, or sick days. Most U.S. companies, of course, do provide vacation as a way to attract and retain workers. When companies do give vacation time; however, it averages only 10 days a year.

In the U.S., our culture believes, at its core, that the harder we work, the more we will succeed. But, there’s actually no proof that working harder and not taking time off leads to greater success.

The truth, in fact, is that vacations are necessary to our well-being and performance. Taking regular breaks from work greatly improves productivity while skipping vacation often leads to stress and exhaustion. This is why vacations from work are important. Our brains and body need time to recharge. Rest, relaxation and stress reduction are important for people’s well-being and health. Therefore, vacations are necessary for mental and physical health and, in turn, productivity.

Americans need to reassess their perceptions surrounding the relationship between time spent working and productivity. In turn, they will find that they’re healthier, happier and better at their jobs.

Why do Europeans and Americans differ so much in their attitude toward work and vacation? I feel that it comes down to culture. Europeans have a fuller appreciation that life is to be enjoyed. Work is a means to an end, not an end in itself. In stark contrast, Americans are more materialistic and values stuff such as their big homes and cars more than they value time. We all have to pay the bills. But, life will slip past you if you’re not careful. There is a world to be explored beyond your place of work.

Based on my previous experience, I think that awarding more vacation in order to boost productivity just might work. It’s time to start planning my next vacation.

What Makes Me Happy!

Things That Make Me Happy

What Makes Me Happy!

During my Philosophy courses, I have explored what some of the greatest thinkers—Aristotle, Rand, Plato, Kant, Bentham, and Mill—have added to the conversation on happiness. Happiness was a much debated topic but now it is forever being discussed that it has become quite commonplace.

Eudaimonia is a Greek word that means happiness, but perhaps better describes as well-being or good life. Aristotle believed that eudaimonia was reached through virtue. He recognized health, wealth, and beauty as important external factors needed for happiness. In stark contrast, the Stoics philosophers believed virtue alone was enough for eudaimonia.

What is happiness?

Happiness is a feeling of inner peace and satisfaction and is usually experienced when there are no worries or fear. Happiness varies and is different for each individual. It is inside where happiness dwells. Happiness can be extracted from the simplest and most common pleasures in life. One can find happiness when he or she opens their heart to people.

There are basic ingredients for happiness. Following are ingredients that make me happy.


A glorious sunset is the epitome of fleeting beauty. For a few minutes, the sky is a spectacle of color—and then it’s over. Yet the psychological effects of admiring the sunset persist long after the color has faded. For me, when I feel connected with nature I am happier and have more positive emotions.

There are places in the world where people stop for the sunset and to say thanks for the gift of having another day or having seen a spectacular sunset. Santorini is one of the best places on earth as far as sunset viewing is concerned. In fact, few places can match the sheer beauty of Santorini’s sunset views with its cliff towns and amazing ocean views.


One of my simplest pleasures include spending time outdoors hiking or walking in the park, and exploring nature. Spending time in nature is an essential part of maintaining balance for me. I get an energy boost by taking in the sights and smells of the trees and flowers, or being at the beach or in the mountains. I feel a real connection to nature that gives me the solitude and peace I need whenever life gets to be too hectic.


Music expresses emotion, uplifts and inspires, touches the heart, and soothes our very soul. As Confucius once said, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Music is a lifetime passion that has been my ally in life. I hope I will never go without it. It creates a mood that sometimes I can get lost in.

Volunteer/Help Others

Research has shown that volunteering has enormous benefits and can often make us happier. It’s no secret that altruism can help us feel healthier and happier. Giving back enables us to grow in unexpected ways. We’re happier when we’re learning something new, teaching someone else, making something better, or fixing something.


“Nothing in this world is useless in the eyes of God. Not a leaf from a tree falls, not a hair from your head, not even an insect dies because it was of no use. Everything has a reason to exist.” – Paulo Coelho

Most people like to feel useful, that they can contribute and help others.  It provides them with a sense of purpose and of belonging, which are key elements for happiness.  Our first acts of usefulness are usually close to home—calling your parents not for a special occasion but just to say, “Hi. I love you,” or visiting with a sick neighbor.

Random acts of kindness has the potential to positively impact others. This all takes a leap of faith because you will never know how far the ripples of kindness spreads, but you will feel better about yourself. My most cherished friend often tells me stories where he will buy a complete stranger a cup of coffee or will pay for their train ticket paying forward for another.

Ice Cream or Cherry Snowballs

For me, ice cream or cherry snowballs are life’s simple little pleasures that not only makes me feel better, but these sweet confections have the power to make me feel happy. Life is sweet so dig in!


Smiling is the best way to make your own day and spread happiness around to others. Smiling is contagious. Your smile is a powerful tool because it can transform us. It can make us more attractive and lift our mood. Smiles spread. When we smile at someone, we receive one back.

Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution, also explained the theory of “facial feedback response.” It’s simple—our facial expressions contribute to how we feel. We smile when we feel good, but we also feel good when we smile. Think of something good in your life, smile, and see what happens!


When enjoying the company of a friend, I laugh hard and feel every moment of the conversation. I enjoy listening to others and when it’s my turn, I talk vigorously and with animation. Laughter really is the best medicine. Like smiling, laughter is contagious. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. It boosts your energy and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.


Spirituality and religious involvement is linked with greater well-being and happiness, according to a studies on the connection between spirituality and health, while prayer is thought to relieve stress.

Play with a Puppy

Anyone who lives with a cat or dog will tell you the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with their furry friends. Petting an animal is associated with pleasure and happiness and pet ownership has been linked with increased well-being.


I remember when I was young taking a nap was considered a punishment. Now being able to take a catnap during the afternoon seems like a luxury. Sleep deprivation can up your stress levels. What’s more, researchers have linked catnaps with improved mood, alertness, and productivity.


“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” –Marianne Williamson

One of the greatest gifts is forgiving. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. And ask to be forgiven. Few people realize the impact the ability to forgive can have on their happiness. Forgiving people tend to be happier, healthier, and more empathetic.

Forgiving is hard because it takes courage and resolve to let go of negative feelings when we’ve been wronged. Fortunately, it gets easier with practice.

What makes you happy?

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