Many people believe that when they are successful they will be happy. The evidence says “no”.
Research1 shows that when people become successful they are still not satisfied, and continually move the goal posts.
In fact, the reverse is true: people who are happy are more successful! In a sweeping meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, researchers found that happy employees have, on average, 31% higher productivity; their sales are 37% higher; and their creativity is three times higher1.
If you are happy, you will both get the benefits of happiness yourself, and you will be more successful too! Now isn’t that worth having?
In fact, 75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by happiness factors: your optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way2.
Let’s address these three topics:
1) Become more optimistic
Have a Life-Calling
Research1 shows that while some people “just do jobs”, others are orientated towards creating a career, and a third group have an orientation towards a “calling”. Research on Life-Callings3 shows that those individuals who have a Calling report higher satisfaction with their lives and work, and are more likely to “craft” their jobs to fit their strengths and interests.
Use your strengths
People who use their strengths have greater life-satisfaction4 . We have discussed this in some depth in previous blogs, so I won’t say more here but you can find them in the archive.
Have a positive vision for your life
People with a positive vision of where their life is going will bounce back from set-backs and difficulty much more than those who do not have an optimistic view of the future.
If you jot down three things you were grateful for at the end of each day, your happiness will measurably improve within a month5.
Highlight the positive, low-light the negative
Create the habit of storing and remembering positive memories: memories of success, of connection, or of pleasure. Having access to these memories increases the likelihood that you will be in a positive emotional state and will be open to more of these sorts of experiences. Taking two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours is an example of this.
Learning to highlight positive memories is one of the methods we learn in Rejuvenate Your Life (which is on the weekend of 13th -15th March) and the follow-on deep-dive programme, Shine Your Light in the World (starting on 17th April for 6 weekends).
2) Give and receive more social support
Receiving social support from people who accept you
Good social support is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. The research is so good that the U.S army teaches the Master Sergeants to train their men in communication and sharing. In business, top Organisational Development people understand that the best way to develop talented young people is to get them into a sponsorship relationship with a senior executive. Self-confidence has two factors: your own view of your track record and the extent to which you feel seen by people you respect. Just being seen and acknowledged by others is a major factor in personal growth.
How can you have more contact with people like this? If you are going through some sort of life transition, whether it is a career change, children leaving home, a divorce, or moving house, getting the right support from your existing “tribe” or a new tribe is very important. When you are going through significant psychological change, facilitators who see you in a positive light is a significant part of the personal transformation process. Who are the people who “see you”, who understand and accept you just the way you are? This is one of the reasons why Shine Your Light in the World is so powerful: you will receive this acknowledgment and support as you grow over the 6 weekends.
Giving support to others
Initially, research focused on how much support you receive, but later studies showed that the amount of social support you give is just as important. In fact, how much social support you give to others correlates with less illness and longevity. If we give love to others, it feels good in our body and soul.
3) Manage your psychological energy and stress
Build your psychological resources
Under the heading “Become more optimistic” above, we talked about focusing on positive memories. The more we have ready access to memories that make us feel confident and increase our self-esteem, the happier and more successful we will be. These positive psychological resources are a powerful antidote to when, as they sometimes do, things go wrong.
Follow your gut instincts
Make sure you include your feelings in decision-making. People who do are happier with their decisions4.
Mindfulness and meditation
Studies show1 that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.
Very short amounts of meditation – 2 minutes focusing on breathing for example – not only increases immediate well-being, but has a longer-term effect: when we feel happier, we take more (healthy) risks, and develop new skills. These skills remain long after the immediate effects of the meditation have long gone5.
Heal old hurts
Forgiveness leads to happiness, but we have to be honest about whether are ready to forgive yet or not. Faking our feelings doesn’t help. Sometimes it is necessary to turn towards an old hurt or wound and bring our loving heart as a healing force to ourselves. This sort of healing sometimes needs professional support as it is good to have a skilled person there while we explore and let go of the old feelings. Do you need to do this work? Well, ask yourself “are any historic experiences or feelings holding me back in my life?” If you feel held back in your life by things that have happened to you in the past, then it is good to “bite the bullet” and get these things healed as we do on Shine Your Light in the World. Most of us have had experiences like this that limit us to some degree.
The more you can accept how you feel and what is happening in your body each moment, the more you can enjoy the journey of life. Feelings come and go, both the good ones and the bad ones. The more we can give ourselves loving acceptance of whatever comes up, the faster the feeling will move on. We can learn to let go of difficult feelings. We can also learn to behave in ways that can increase the opportunity for good feelings.
Wonder at Life
All the above practices help increase our awe at both life and the fact of being alive. Wonder at life can be helpful when things are great, but also when things are difficult.
Come and experience all of this in a real way at Rejuvenate Your Life (the weekend of 13th -15th March). You can book here.
And if you really want to bring greater love, happiness and success into your life, to re-work your relationship to happiness and success deep within your body-mind system, then join us on Shine Your Light in the World starting on 17th April.
1. Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York: Broadway Books.
2. Achor, S. (2014). Positive Intelligence. In Managing Stress at Work. Harvard Business Review.
3. Wrzesniewski, A. (2014). Multiple types of motives don’t multiply the motivation of West Point cadets. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 11(30).
4. Govindji, R., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Strengths use, self-concordance and well-being: Implications for strengths coaching and coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2 (2), 143-153.
5. Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2008). PersonalPages.Manchester.ac.uk, Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the Five Factor Model. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 49-54.
6. Aronson, E. (1972). The social animal. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.
7. Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 359, 1367-1377.