Want To Be Successful? Get Happy!


It seems happiness counts for much more than intelligence when it comes to success.

A growing body of “happiness research” is showing that happiness may even be a pre-requisite for success in the first place.

We all know folks who achieve success and aren’t one smile closer to happiness as a result.

A 1984 meta-review concluded that high IQ can explain only about 25 per cent of the likelihood of becoming successful.

The other 75 per cent comes down to optimism and the ability to see stress as a challenge, not something we must endure, says Shawn Achor, a former Harvard University psychology professor and current CEO of consulting firm GoodThink Inc., explains in a 2011 TED talk that has collected nearly 8 million views.

The Happiness Advantage

We think if we become successful we will be happy, says Achor, but in fact our brain works in the opposite way which he dubs the “Happiness Advantage.”

When our brain is in a happy state intelligence, creativity and energy all rise. We are 31 per cent more successful at our tasks, and 37 per cent better at sales, he says.

Dopamine which is present in the brain when it is in a positive state turns on all the learning centres in the brain as well as giving us a warm buzz.

Working with companies he has interpreted what the “happiness science” shows into easily adopted principles for retraining the brain for happiness.

Retrain Your Brain: The 21 Day Challenge

Achor suggests you make changes in the way you experience your surroundings in by making small changes every day for 21 days.

They include doing these things daily:

  • Write down three things you are grateful for
  • Spend two minutes recording in a journal your most positive experience in the last 24 hours
  • Send a positive email or note to someone you know
  • Meditate for two minutes
  • Exercise for 10 minutes

Small Changes; Lasting Results

The brain retraining works just as well on the job as in personal lives.

Doing the training with tax accountants and auditors at KPMG, Achor says at the end of the three week period those who had done even one of these five habits scored significantly higher on measures of engagement and optimism at work (as well as general life satisfaction) than a control group that had not participated in the training.

And the effect was lasting. Four months later, says Achor, those same employees still registered significantly higher life satisfaction scores than the control group.

Dramatic Rise In Success Rates

The Financialist report concludes: “Few among us need to be reminded that making our happiness contingent on external measures of “success” — reaching a career milestone or building up a large nest egg of cold hard cash — won’t necessarily make us happy.

“But research seems to be showing that the reverse might actually be true.

“Says Achor: ‘Greater success does not bring greater happiness. But greater happiness does raise success rates dramatically.’”


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