VHP of the Week: Sunnie Jaye Tölle

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DH: Share a bit about yourself (where you're currently living and where you're from)
Sunnie: I spent the first 20 years of my life in a suburb of Zurich, Switzerland. For my undergraduate studies I got accepted to the class of 2012 at Yale University where I am currently majoring in economics.

DH: Tell us about The HappyHap Project, and how you got started.
Sunnie: During my first semester at Yale in 2008 I came up with the idea for what initially started out as HappyHap.com but later evolved into The HappyHap Project.

HappyHap.com is a website where you can post a video, a photo or write a blurb about a happy hap(pening) and dedicate it to others. Within less than a year we counted 15 team members, so we founded The HappyHap Project. It’s a Yale student organization that to date has built an interactive website, published a magazine, produced three amateur short movies, coordinated multiple speaker events and study breaks as well as launched its own blog.

Right now, our main focus lies on the “Perspectives of Happiness” photo exhibition. The objective of this project is threefold: Firstly, the exhibition aims to celebrate diversity of perspective and intercultural understanding. Secondly, it aims to promote the universally shared value of happiness. Thirdly and most importantly, we want to bring a smile to at least four children by collecting funds for Smiletrain, a charity organization that provides cleft lip and palate surgery to poor children in developing countries.

The exhibition consists of both an online gallery and a physical exhibition at Yale. For the online component, we’re inviting everyone to send us a photo submission featuring your perspective of happiness, so I hope the DH community will participate!

DH: How do you deliver happiness to your employees, customers and/or colleagues?
Sunnie: The key ingredient for “delivering happiness” to our team is to leave ample space for creativity, friendship, and cool projects. That’s why I set up the HappyHap Project internally with a minimum amount of hierarchy and a maximum amount of room for open collaboration. Essentially, we’re a project lab that revolves around ideation sessions, opportunity for project ownership and lots of learning by doing. We’ve also cultivated a strong culture of mentorship, both from upperclassmen team members as well as from our advisory board that is composed of Yale faculty members.

In regards to “delivering happiness” on campus, each one of our projects aims to foster a (more) positive environment at Yale that inspires members of its community to be more mindful of what makes them happy and matters most to them.

DH: How did you discover the Delivering Happiness Movement?
Sunnie: I discovered the book by chance while surfing Amazon for new reading material.

DH: What about DH, the book and/or the movement, inspires you the most?
Sunnie: After having read the book, I sent out a message to the HappyHap team in which I recommended the book. To quote from it: “Delivering Happiness is insightful, funny and an overall great bedtime read that inspires you to do something purposeful the next morning.”

DH: Did DH nudge you towards making any changes in your life? If so, tell us more.
Sunnie: The book itself did not radically transform my overall perspective of happiness. Rather, it sent a clear message: regardless of whether you’re an undergraduate student or a CEO of a multi-million dollar company, focusing on the things that make you happy and matter most to you is not only important, but necessary for your long-term success.

DH: Why is happiness important to you?
Sunnie: I think it is important to define one’s perspective of happiness early on since it is both a starting point and an end goal. It is a starting point because knowing what makes you happy and matters most to you can serve as an excellent compass that guides you in the pursuit of a life filled with meaning and value. It is an end goal because when you’re old and wrinkly, you want to look back upon life and feel content and happy about the path you chose.

DH: What's your advice to someone who wants to start making happiness a priority but doesn't know where to begin?
Sunnie: I’d say trust that whatever it takes to make happiness a priority is already within you. Maybe think of it this way: As a kid doing what made you happy was a no-brainer -- play, friends, a good joke, a warm hug, family, candy, you name it. It’s inherent behavior and while the world becomes more complex and demanding as we grow up, happiness actually doesn’t. So integrating some of those elements back into your life may be a good starting point.

DH: What’s your favorite happy and/or inspirational quote?
Sunnie: "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I do not believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they cannot find them, make them." -George Bernard Sha

DH: What's something weird that makes you happy?
Sunnie: Eating ice cream on a cold winter day.

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