Many people go through life thinking ‘I will be happier when I get that promotion at work; move to a new company; lose three kilos in weight; reduce my golf handicap to single figures etc.’ However, the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows that rather than happiness coming from the successful achievement of goals such as the above, the ‘Success Leads to Happiness’ equation actually works in the opposite direction. Those people who are happier and more positive are those who become more successful i.e. ‘Happiness Leads to Success’. Happier sales people make more sales; happier students do better in exams; happier doctors make better diagnoses etc.
These findings have significant implications for how we develop ourselves and our people to succeed. Spending more time at the office, attending more back-to-back meetings, skipping exercise and building more stress in our lives through focusing on ‘what I still need to do to achieve my goal so I can be happy’ are not the best ways to operate.
Instead, we should be looking for ways to become more aware of how well (or not) our thinking patterns are helping us to be happy. Constant self-talk that puts us down or picks up on every little thing that doesn’t go perfectly are examples of what Positive Intelligence author Shirzad Chamine labels the various Saboteurs that get in the way of those more positive ways of thinking which can lead to us feeling more positive and happy.
While we like to convince ourselves that we are constantly looking to improve and that is why we look for areas that aren’t perfect, this can lead us to always focus on the negative (because there are always things that can be done better) rather than focus on the things that go well. The net result is that we end up building the pressure on ourselves to succeed, so we can be happy, which actually causes us to function at a less than optimal level which means we are actually less likely to succeed!
If you want to become more successful, rather than focusing even harder on what you need to ‘do’ or achieve, you will be more likely to see progress if you instead focus on how you can increase your level of happiness. Keeping a journal or working with a coach are two ways to become more aware of our thinking and to identify elements of our thinking that we would like to change.
Mindfulness is another technique that can be used as a way of becoming more aware of our thinking as well as more ‘present’ – getting out of our heads and engaging with the world and other human beings in the here and now. When you are truly present stress does not exist. Regular practice of mindfulness / meditation techniques provide a way of becoming more self-aware, calmer, clearer and ultimately happier. As a result we are able to process what’s going on around us more effectively and to engage better with people, with the net result that we deliver better outcomes (sales; decisions; relationships; ideas etc.).
Happiness leads to success, not the other way round!