Growing up in the 1970s, there was an expectation that if you work very hard, you would be financially successful and that would bring happiness. Financial success would provide you with the means to start giving. Evidence has come to light over the past few years to prove that this is not true.
IN FACT, IT IS COMPLETELY BACKWARDS.
Giving is an attribute that leads to greater happiness and success. Not the other way around.
THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE
In his wildly popular TED talk, The Happy Secret To Better Work, Shawn Achor shares the results of his global research from working in 45 different countries. Bottom Line: success is a result of happiness, not the other way around.
According to Achor, expressing gratitude, daily meditation, exercise, acts of kindness, and writing positive experiences in a journal, all significantly contribute to an individual's happiness. Want to learn more about his research? Check out his book: The Happiness Advantage.
THE QUARTER IN THE CART
Many suburban supermarkets, in an effort to encourage shoppers to return carts to a specified location, require you to put a quarter into a mechanism that releases the cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back.
I often find that someone is standing by the string of trolleys when I go to return mine. Rather than retrieve the quarter (or take theirs) I give them the cart and simply ask that they do the same for the next person. For a mere twenty-five cents, I imagine I have started a domino effect of kindness.
For someone having a bad day, this might be the random act of kindness that shows them that the world can be good. Certainly, no harm can come from it. As the giver, it makes me feel good to do a small kindness for a stranger.
FORMING POSITIVE NEURAL PATHWAYS
Scientific research tells us that repeated thoughts create neural pathways. If you have ever gone shopping for a car, you know this is true. Let's say you are interested in buying a red Toyota Prius. Once you've thought about it, somehow you start seeing them everywhere - how did you not notice this before? Everywhere you look, there's a red Prius!
The more you identify positive things in your life, the deeper and more pronounced those pathways become. With some practice, your brain starts to look for the positive in things...it becomes a reflex. So, even if you feel like you were born or raised as a pessimist, you can start to see your cup as being half full.
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY
When you think about the people you work with, colleagues with a positive outlook are typically more productive. We all have bad days (without them, how can you measure the good days?) On a bad day, motivation is difficult and everything seems hard. On the other hand, when you are in a good mood, you are more likely to approach difficult, challenging work. Focusing is easier and you feel stronger and more empowered to tackle the hard stuff.
According to Achor, individuals operating with a 'positive' brain are 30% more productive than those functioning on brain 'neutral' or 'negative. Mind-blowing, right?
I'LL BE HAPPY WHEN... A RECIPE FOR DISCONTENT
If you have ever told yourself, "I'll be happy when I _____ (fill in the blank: get promoted, find a life partner, lose weight, etc.) then you have probably found yourself disappointed. When we select events that will make us happy, once we reach them, we simply move the target. And then we decide we will be happy when we get the next promotion, lose another 10 pounds, or get an even bigger house. It becomes a never-ending cycle of unhappiness, discontent, and disappointment.
Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take - Why helping others drives our success, stresses the connection between success and giving. In his best-selling book, Grant shares the results of his research - individuals who make efforts to help others with no expectation in return, end up developing valuable networks that lead to their own personal success.
WHAT CAN YOU TAKE FROM ALL OF THIS?
Don't look to financial success to make you happy; you won't find it.
Happiness results from some simple but basic daily routines. Putting a little effort into looking for the positive, helping others, being mindful of what is good in your life, and taking steps towards showing appreciation and kindness will increase your level of happiness. And then, there are no limits to your success!
What do you think?
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