DH: Share a bit about yourself and where you're from.
Ann Kodani: I grew up in the Bay Area and am now living a block away from my childhood home with my husband and our labrador.
DH: Tell us about your business or the company where you work, and how you got started.
AK: I work as an internal medicine doctor for Kaiser Permanente, where I see patients in a clinic setting. In college my initial aspiration was to become a forest ranger or ecologist. Then I met with a college guidance counselor who asked some key questions and gleaned that the medical field might be a better choice. So I swapped the fedora for a white coat.
DH: How do you deliver happiness to your employees, customers and/or colleagues?
AK: I try to listen. I think patients often feel rushed, so I make an effort to listen to their concerns and questions. More than what I bring to them, it’s what my patients have taught me that contribute to happiness. There are people that have immense physical and emotional challenges and yet live with grace and joy. They have taught me that while we have some inherit predisposition to have a sunny character, our attitude and happiness are largely by choice.
I have also found happiness in making good friends at work. I share an office with a nurse practitioner who has become one of my best friends. Having someone to laugh and share stress with makes me happy and makes my job seem less like work.
DH: What about DH, the book and/or the movement, inspires you the most?
AK: The concept that happiness matters and can affect all aspects of your life. It doesn’t require huge changes and it’s not a destination.
DH: Did DH nudge you towards making any changes in your life? If so, tell us more.
AK: DH keeps happiness in my consciousness. It made the book, The Happiness Project, catch my eye, and I implemented one of its principles: outer order contributes to inner calm. I used to dread opening my closet, whose doors felt like Rodin’s “Gates of Hell.” Clothes were smashed together, some without hangers but remaining upright because of the crushing volume of their neighbors. Dresses, shoes, and cycling clothes mingled. After expunging the demons and organizing the closet, I now no longer wince when I open the doors and I relish putting things back on the hanger where they belong. I don’t know why this is so satisfying, but it is.
Another change I’ve tried to make is to empathize more, since this can help both the target of empathy and the person who empathizes. For example, recently at a party where I was amongst a lot of funny and wonderful friends, an acquaintance asked me rather nastily, “Do you ever stop smiling?” There were some choice retorts –most of which I thought of later- I could’ve made, but instead I said, “Not when I’m with great friends.” I realized right then that the author of the question rarely smiles, and perhaps has a lot of his own challenges and unhappiness to deal with. It’s not an excuse for his behavior, but these thoughts helped me understand his question was less about me than it was a reflection of himself. And that made it much easier to get back to having fun at the party . . . and smiling.
DH: Why is happiness important to you?
AK: I think happiness is important because it holds the answer to living a meaningful, satisfying life. It doesn’t mean you have to do grand, earth-shattering things. Although maybe being happy is a grand thing.
DH: What makes you really happy?
AK: Laughing really hard. Friends and family. Helping people understand or overcome their illnesses. Being fit. The ocean.
DH: What's your advice to someone who wants to start making happiness a priority but doesn't know where to begin?
AK: Begin with an inventory of things throughout the day that make you feel happy or bad, and why. What can you do to change those bad things? If nothing, can you change your attitude or perspective?
DH: What’s your favorite happy and/or inspirational quote?
AK: "Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."–Dalai Lama
DH: What's something weird that makes you happy?
AK: Collections of the season’s best football touchdowns. I don’t even watch football anymore, but seeing a player break multiple tackles or catch a huge bomb from across the field makes me happy.