Happiness. I want it. You want it. Barack Obama and Nicki Minaj want it. It’s the number one motivator for everyone. We might not be consciously aware of it, but all our goals and dreams of success have one thing in common: We believe that they’ll bring us happiness.
That’s why we take the leap and go out on the adventure to live our dreams. It’s the reason others chase shiny objects and bigger paychecks. We believe that if we could just achieve this one more thing, we will finally be happy.
We believe that happiness follows success.
But we got it all wrong.
Or to be precise; we got it backwards.
Check this: World-class Harvard professor and positive psychologist Shawn Achor says that:
Happiness precedes success. Let me repeat that:
Happiness comes before success. In other words:
Happy people are more likely to be successful (however you define that).
This is quite a big deal. When you consider the fact that most people chase happiness their whole life (whether they know it or not) and do all sorts of funny things to be happy this literally is a game changer.
Now in case you’ve never heard of positive psychology; it’s a revolutionary new approach to traditional psychology. Positive psychologists don’t focus on curing mental illnesses. Instead they’re trying to help normal people become happy. While a traditional psychologist would focus on getting a person from a negative ten to a zero on the happiness scale, positive psychologists try to get them from a zero to a positive ten. These guys literally study happiness.
If you want to learn more about positive psychology I suggest that you make yourself some tea, sit back and watch this great talk by Tal-Ben Shahar, a former colleague of our Mr. Achor, where he explains the greatest hits of positive psychology.
Back to Mr. Achor and his claim that happiness precedes success. Here’s how he explains it in his book The Happiness Advantage:
“More than a decade of groundbreaking research in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience has proven in no uncertain terms that the relationship between success and happiness works the other way around.
Thanks to this cutting-edge science, we now know that happiness is the *precursor* to success, not merely the result. And that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement — giving us the competitive edge that I call the Happiness Advantage.
It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive. When we are happy — when our mindset and mood are positive — we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful.”
There you have it: Happiness comes first, success follows. This is a proven fact.
Now what does this mean for us, the everyday people and world changers alike, who are working hard to reach their goals to make their dreams a reality?
- If we’re serious about our success, we need to make happiness our #1 priority.
- We don’t need to chase happiness. We don’t have to achieve that one more thing in order to be happy. It is possible to be happy in the now, whatever our circumstances may be.
Think about it: If we’re serious about creating the life of our dreams we *must* make happiness a priority. Science has proven that it makes it more likely that we reach our dreams, plus it’ll naturally make the journey a lot more fun!
It’s so easy to slip into thinking that you won’t be happy until you have reached your goal. And what happens then? You pack a ton of things on your plate, you work your socks off and one day you find yourself so stressed out and overwhelmed that you wanna call it quits, crawl into bed and sleep until New Year’s Eve.
The story of a German college student who was chasing happiness like children chase Santa Claus (yup, that’s me!)
I know what I’m talking about because I’ve fallen into the trap myself. I thought that I could not be happy until I had reached one of my biggest goals: To become financially independent doing work that makes a difference in the world. I’ve spend hours and days making plans and putting them into action to make sure that I reach my goal.
The bad thing was that my life wasn’t resembling all the work I had put in. Sure, I was making progress towards my goal. But at the end of November I still hadn’t made it. In fact I only had an astonishing 6,45€ in my bank account. There was a little more in my trusted piggy bank, but not enough to stop me from freaking out. I was broke, I was worried and I wasn’t sure if I was a complete idiot to believe that little me could do work I love, change the world and still put food on the table.
I wanted to see results now. I desperately needed to see a change in my external reality after almost everything in my internal world had been turned upside down. I thought that if I couldn’t make my dream come true *very* soon, I’d have to give up on the dream altogether.
So I committed to work even harder and push myself more so I would reach my goal faster. Guess what happened? I felt like an old toothbrush: Worn out and grossed by the thought of working any longer (I imagine that this is what old toothbrushes feel like. If you’re friends with an old toothbrush and can disprove my assumptions about their feelings, please let me know).
The result of me working like a maniac to reach a goal that I thought would bring me happiness was…: The unhappiest Iris people had seen in months. I hated my life, I hated everyone who was talking about living your dreams and I wanted to hug my toothbrush.
I put on the emergency break and allowed myself to just let go and be lazy for two weeks (hence the absence from the blog). I lounged around in my PJ’s for hours, knitted, listened to Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” and did nothing that could be called productive. One night when the funk just didn’t want to go away I had the wise idea to grab my journal and figure out why I was feeling like a mess.
I realized that I had been working so hard because I was chasing happiness. I made the wrong assumption that I could not be happy until I had reached my goal of being financially independent. That’s why I pressured myself so much, because I wanted to get there ASAP to finally feel fine again.
Well, you’re already smarter than I was because you’ve already read what Mr. Achor has to say about the topic: Happiness precedes success. Hence we can conclude that chasing happiness is dumb and leads us nowhere.
I figured out that I had made two big mistakes: I had assumed that I had to beat my way to happiness and that I could only be happy once I had reached my goal.
So sitting there in my PJ’s I made a promise to myself: I would make happiness my #1 priority. No exceptions.
The Happiness Experiment (join us!)
Here is where you come in: I was talking to my homeboy Jacob and he told me about a happiness experiment he wants to do for the month of December.
Here’s the deal: He has made happiness his #1 priority. Because Jacob is a man who walks his talk he’s making some changes in his life this December. He suspects that these changes will raise his level of happiness consistently. If Mr. Achors findings are true then he should not only see a change in how he feels but he should also be more successful (mind you, Jacob doesn’t define success solely based on the amount of money he makes). After the month is over Jacob wants to see if this holds true.
I thought that this whole experiment was a *brilliant* idea. Why not challenge science a bit and see if what they’re talking about holds true in our lives? And as I’ve just committed to make happiness my #1 priority to avoid hanging out with my old toothbrush too much (sorry homey) this is the perfect opportunity to walk my talk and start taking action.
Now the big question is…
What changes can you commit to for a month to boost your happiness this December?
It’s pretty straight forward. Whenever you want to take your happiness to the next level, simply ask yourself:
What’s one thing that if I started doing consistently would have the biggest beneficial impact on my life?
This can be anything from sippin’ a green juice in the morning, to meditating daily or calling a good friend once a day. It needs to be something that you can do daily. So for example, if you’ve been dreaming about becoming a published author it might be “write 100 words every day”. If you want to be healthier it could be “take a 15 minute walk right upon waking”.
Got it? Great. Now there’s another question I want you to ask yourself:
What’s one thing that if I stopped doing would have the biggest beneficial impact on my life?
If you want to become healthier you might want to stop eating Ben & Jerry’s at night. If you feel like you don’t have time for the things that matter you could limit the time you spend on your computer.
Think about those two questions. Journal on them if you need to. Let us know what you’re going to stop and start doing for a month. But there’s one more important component to the experiment:
You have to be 100% committed to implement these changes. Why? Jack Canfield said it best:
“99% is a bitch. 100% is a breeze.”
If you’re not going all in then you’re going to fail. Miserably. It won’t be fun. And that my friend, would defeat the purpose of our mission with this experiment!
So do yourself a favor and commit 100%.
You wanna know what I decided to experiment with this December?
When I asked myself those questions, the answers were pretty clear. I’m going to start writing 300 words a day for Bright Little Socks. If you don’t write daily as a blogger, it becomes tricky to pull out a post a week (*cough* that and my new found friendship with my toothbrush are the reasons why it has been a little quiet over here).
What am I going to stop doing? Glad you asked. My biggest issue during my toothbrush period was the fact that I was beating myself up all the time, putting tons of pressure on myself which lead to me feeling overwhelmed which then made me crawl in bed and pretend I wasn’t there. I didn’t get much done with that strategy which gave me another reason to beat myself up again … do you see a pattern here?
What was causing all this was the negative self-talk that was going on in my mind 24/7. I absolutely need to get rid of that. How? First off, I’m going play a game and try to catch myself every time a mean and grumbling thought pops up in my mind. Then I’ll see if I can replace it with a more gentleman type thought. I’ll also journal whenever I feel overwhelmed as that has proven itself as the most efficient technique to get clear and focused again for me.
I’ll also report how happy I feel on a scale from 1 to 10 twice a day, when I wake up and when I go to bed. That way I hope that I’ll be able to to track if there are any positive changes after the experiment is over so that I can report back to you.
Now let’s recap and put together what you need to do if you want to participate in the happiness experiment:
They’re pretty straight forward. If you want to participate in the happiness experiment, do this:
- Make happiness your #1 priority for the month of December.
- What’s one thing that if you started doing consistently would have the biggest beneficial impact on your life?
Commit to start doing it for the month of December.
- What’s one thing that if you stopped doing consistently would have the biggest beneficial impact on your life?
Commit to stop doing it for the month of December.
If you’re willing to do this, then welcome to the club! You’re in
One last thing: Please come over to Sensophy and take a seat on Jacob’s virtual couch to read what he has to say about this experiment. It’ll crack you up, promise.
Now it’s your turn. Will you make happiness your #1 priority? Just for a month? Let us know in the comments below.
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- Too Much to Do Too Little Time: How to Get Off The Hamster Wheel
- How to Escape A Life That Bores You to Death
- Unhappiness 101
- Why You Need to Live Your Dreams to Make Your Life Meaningful (spoiler alert: you will die)
- How to Do What You Love, Change the World & Get Paid to Do it
- 10 Life Lessons Learned on a Trip to the End of the World
- What to Do When Everything Plain Sucks: A Gentle Suck-Day Survival Kit
- The Beauty of a Morning Ritual: How it Can Help You Get Your Joy Back
- Burnout Is Not Cool. I Know You’re Serious About Your Dream, But Stop Killing Yourself Over It.
- Listen to your intuition. It trumps your rational mind.
- You can’t skip the fucking journey (& why I haven’t been blogging as much)