It’s the American way. We work hard. We achieve success. We’re happy, right? Psychologist Shawn Achor laughs in the face of this notion. We’ve got it backwards. If we’re happy in the moment, we’re more driven and can then achieve success — not the other way around.
Look at anyone you know or may have heard about who was admitted into a prestigious school. The hardest part was just getting into the school, right? But Achor, a Harvard grad, stresses the real troubles begin AFTER admittance. From that point on, students can be tremendously unhappy as they’re constantly competing against others and chasing a carrot being pushed farther and farther away from them. There is no happiness in the moment when the focus truly becomes what accomplishment or what station is next.
I think of many professional peers and acquaintances I have known through the years. Simply earning a credential(s) behind your name or attaining a specific title, I’ve discovered, doesn’t guarantee happiness. In fact, once these highly accomplished professionals obtain this position for which they have strived so hard and for so long, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be for them. They’re miserable. They become disenchanted or resent their reality – their present.
At times, I too, have become disenchanted. Maybe I’ve tried so hard to obtain a partnership with a client or to land a project, only to discover once I win that engagement, that it’s not what I thought it would be. Let’s call that the “grass is always greener” syndrome.
Instead of wallowing in what our present is not we need to focus on what it is – the good elements and not so much the perceived negative aspects.
As I’ve discussed before, we all make strategic choices in our lives. We need to go into those choices with our eyes wide open, realizing that nothing is ever black or white – there is a lot of gray.
There will be moments of disappointment for those accomplishments we have placed on a pedestal and believe will bring us our happiness.
Happiness, however, is not a “thing.” If we didn’t have happiness to begin with before we sought a project or position, we won’t get it courtesy of said achievement. It’s an internal quality.
That said, we can spend our entire lives rethinking the strategic choices we have made. That’s a map to unhappiness, because we’re either living in the past or dreaming of the better future. We are suspended in limbo, and can’t enjoy our present.
It’s only when we can change our outlook on our world, that we attain what Achor calls the “happiness advantage.” From there, that productivity, enhanced thinking and creativity so integral to success will follow. Not the other way around. If we’re not inclined to such happiness, we can help push it along by journaling the positive events that happened over the course of the day, exercising to get that feel-good dopamine chemical going, or meditating so we can focus on the task at hand – not the five million other things we have on our plates.
How do you put yourself in that positive state of mind so integral to boosting your energy, creativity and productivity levels?