Does success lead to happiness or does happiness lead to success?

Most people believe that success creates happiness. If we work harder we will be more successful and if we are more successful then we will be happier. Positive psychology expert and author of The Happiness Advantage Shawn Achor says we’ve got it backwards.

“It’s not the reality that shapes us but the lens to which your brain views the world shapes your reality. If we can change the lens not only can we change our happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

The reasoning is simple. Every time our brain experiences a success we tend to change our goals, up the targets and redefine what success looks like. For example if we hit our sales quota for this quarter, we will only up our target for the next quarter. Every time we change what success looks like, happiness gets pushed over the horizon. This has implications in all aspects of our life.

In this fast-moving and entertaining 12 minute TED talk linked to below, Shawn argues that happiness inspires productivity. Using recent discoveries in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience, he demonstrates how happiness actually fuels success. By becoming more positive, the brain becomes more engaged, creative, energetic, resilient and productive. The result is an advantage throughout our entire lives — improving success at work and creating better health, better relationships with our loved ones and a happier home.

Some of his findings show that:

  • 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world but by the way our brain processes the world
  • Only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ
  • 75% of job successes are predicted by our optimization levels, social support, and our ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat
  • A positive brain is 31% more productive than our brains at negative, neutral or stressed
  • Salespeople are 37% better at sales
  • Doctors are 19% faster and more accurate

And so on…

If we can find a way to become positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we are able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. Dopamine which floods our systems when we are positive, not only makes us happier, it turns on all the learning centers in our brain allowing us to adapt to the world in a different way.

In order to create a more positive brain, Shawn prescribes short daily exercises for 21 days that help with the rewiring process. Some of the exercises are:

  • Write down 3 things you are grateful for, which in turn helps the brain develop a pattern of scanning the world for the positive instead of the negative
  • Journal about 1 positive experience from the last 24 hours allowing the brain to relive it and register that behavior matters
  • Learn to meditate as it allows the brain to focus on the task at hand rather than get distracted by multitasking
  • Perform random acts of kindness or conscious acts of kinds by writing one positive email a day to someone in your social support network praising or thanking them

By doing these activities and training our brains, we can reverse the formula for happiness and success and in doing so not only create ripples of positivity but create a real revolution.

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