Happiness = Success: How Science Has Redefined How Success Is Achieved
“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first BE who you really are, then DO what you have to do, in order to HAVE what you want” – Margaret Young
It is a common belief in our society that happiness is the byproduct of success. We’ve been told that we must strive, even if it takes a toll on our wellbeing, and that the end result will equate to success. Advancements in modern science and psychology have shown that this is not the case and that for generations we’ve put the cart before the horse. Happiness and success are intrinsically linked, however, not in the way that we’ve been led to believe.
Studies have recently indicated that when we have a growth mindset (versus a fixed mindset) and we experience positive emotions, it improves our productivity, resilience, out-of-the-box thinking, and motivation. These attributes, in turn, led to success – not the other way round. Needless to say, these are desirable and beneficial qualities for the workplace.
As Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says “The most successful people, the ones with the competitive edge don’t look to happiness as some distant reward for their achievements nor grind through their days on negative or neutral, they are the ones who capitalize on the positive and reap the rewards at every turn.”
We’re not suggesting that hard work doesn’t pay off nor are we suggesting that hard work isn’t important. However, hard work in and of itself does not equate to success.
According to University of North Carolina professor Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory when we experience negative emotions, it narrows our thinking which in turn limits our ability to find solutions to problems, which then negatively impacts our options, resources, and our relationships. On the other hand, when we experience positive emotions it not only broadens the way we think but also improves our cognitive skills.
The bottom line is happiness is the key to our success in life and in our work. Meditation, conscious acts of kindness, exercise, journaling, expressing gratitude, finding meaning in our work, and exercising our signature strengths, are but a few of the scientifically proven ways that raise our levels of happiness.
What’s one of your stories when happiness led to success?