Happiness Now, Success Later - The Happiness Advantage

Happy teenager gesturing OK sign and smiling isolated on white backgroundAccording to positive psychologist Shawn Achor, our society has the key to success exactly wrong. We’ve all been taught to believe that success is a prerequisite to happiness — if I work harder, I’ll be more successful, and if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.

Problem is that science doesn’t back that up. You probably don’t need a scientist to tell you that a positive, happy brain is more creative, intelligent, and productive than a neutral, negative or stressed-out brain. But you might be surprised to learn that only 25% of a person’s job success is predicted by IQ. The other 75% is determined by a person’s optimism, their social supports and their ability to see stressful situations as a challenge rather than a threat.

Armed with this information and the believe that we can retrain our brains to be more positive, Shawn Achor goes into work places to see what happens if employees are encouraged to spend just a few minutes each day doing one of five activities shown to contribute to overall positivity. These are:

  • listing 3 things we are grateful for each day
  • journaling on 1 positive experience from the last 24 hours
  • exercise
  • meditation, and
  • random acts of kindness toward people in our social support network

And do you know what? It actually works. After only 21 days of practice, happiness levels rise and so does performance.

So, if you want to help your student succeed at school or in sports, encourage them to try one of the listed activities, or if none of those are appealing, help them find their own way to cultivate happiness. Worst case, even if your child doesn’t go on to be the valedictorian of her high school class or an olympic gold-medalist, she will be a happier person. And isn’t that what we all really wanted in the first place.

If you want to lean more about the link between positivity and success, visit Shawn Achor’s TED talk or check out his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

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