Happiness Leads To Success
If you took a poll of people you know, would they say success leads to happiness or would they say happiness leads to success? What would you say?
The answer, according to Achor, is that happiness leads to success. Here is why: “[Our] brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive” (p. 15).
That does not mean Achor is telling us to “put on a happy face,” use positive thinking to “wish away our problems” or “pretend they don’t exist.” Rather, Achor is telling us to “be realistic about the present while “maximizing our potential for the future.” It’s about “cultivating the mindset and behaviors that have been empirically proven to fuel greater success and fulfillment. It is a work ethic” (p. 24).
This works because our brains are malleable. The science of neuro-plasticity tells us that “brain change is possible depending on how you live your life” (p. 28). Therefore, “our potential for intellectual and personal growth” is “equally malleable” (p. 29). Wow!
What is happiness?
Achor’s thesis makes even more sense when he defines happiness as “the joy we feel striving after our potential.”
What is success?
However, Achor doesn’t define success. If success were defined as human flourishing–as being all that God created us to be — then if we experience happiness in pursuing human flourishing, happiness leads to success.
Believe it or not, we have control over whether we experience happiness. We can cultivate the mindset and behaviors we need.
Ways to Prime the Brain
“[Individuals] who are ‘primed’ — meaning scientists help evoke a certain mindset or emotion before doing an experiment — to feel either amusement or contentment can think of a larger and wider array of thoughts and ideas than individuals who have been primed to feel anxiety for fear. And when positive emotions broaden our scope of cognition and behavior in this way, they not only make us more creative, they help us build more intellectual, social, and physical resources we can rely upon in the future” (p. 44).
What can we do to ourselves and others to prime ourselves with feelings of happiness? What do you do right before you take a big test, kick a field goal, make a presentation, or shoot free throws?
- “[Students] who were told the think about the happiest day of their lives right before taking a standardized math test outperformed their peer” (p. 46).
- In one experiment, doctors were “split into three groups: one primed to feel happy, one give a neutral but medicine-related statements to read before the exercise, and one, the control group, given nothing….As it turned out, the happy doctors made the right diagnosis much faster and exhibited much more creativity” (p. 47). What made them happy? “[A] small gift of candy right before they started the task. (And they didn’t even get to eat the candy to ensure that heightened blood sugar levels didn’t affect the results.)” (pp. 47, 48).
- “Little did Brian know that the more he focused his mind on the potentially disastrous effects of a bad presentation, the more he doomed himself to failure” (pp. 48, 49).
Ways to Lift Our Mood
- Find something to look forward to
- Commit conscious acts of kindness
- Go outside on a nice day
- Spend money on someone else
- Exercise a strength
Ways to Lift Our Life
How do you see your work?
“People with a ‘job’ see work as a chore and their paycheck as the reward. They work because they have to and constantly look forward to the time thy can spend away from the job. By contrast, people who view their work as a career work not only out of necessity, but also to advance and succeed. They are invested in their work and want to do well. Finally, people with a calling view work as an end in itself; their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose” (p. 78).
“Try this exercise: Turn a piece of paper horizontally, and on the left hand side write down a task you’re forced to perform at work [or at school] that feels devoid of meaning. Then ask yourself: What is the purpose of the task? What will it accomplish? Draw an arrow to the right and write this answer down. If what you wrote stills seems unimportant, ask yourself again: What does this result lead to? Draw another arrow and write this down. Keep going until you get to a result that is meaningful to you. In this way, you can connect every small thing you do to the larger picture, to a goal that keeps you motivated and energized” (p. 80).