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Want to Succeed? Work on Being Happy

by Beth on February 2nd, 2011

Most people believe that success will make them happy.  They work long hours, sacrificing time with family and friends, because they are convinced that they will find happiness when they finally achieve success.  But according to research in positive psychology it is the other way around.  Being positive makes it more likely that you will be successful.  Shawn Achor calls it the Happiness Advantage.

We know that positivity leads to success and not the other way around because studies have shown that people who are happy at one point in time experience success at a later date.  In one study Ed Diener and his colleagues assessed the happiness level of college freshmen.  They then waited until the students had been out of college for fifteen years and looked at their income levels.  It turns out that the students who were the happiest as freshmen were the ones making the most money.

In another study researchers measured employees’ positive emotions and 18 months later looked at the their supervisor evaluations and pay increases.  They found that the employees who reported being the happiest at the beginning of the study were the ones who later received higher evaluations and pay increases.

So if you want to be successful you first need to work on being happy.  As crazy as it sounds, you might actually increase your chances of success by spending less time hunched over your keyboard.  Connecting with people boosts your positivity, so take an hour out of your workday to have lunch with a colleague and stop working in time to get home to have dinner with your family.  Take breaks from work to go for a walk outside, to help someone, to meditate, to visualize your desired future, or to watch a funny video.  And make sure you find time to exercise and get enough sleep.  After all, your success depends on it!

  1. Beth, this makes a lot of sense! Thank you for all the great insights.

  2. Bill permalink

    Hi Beth, do you recommend this book: Shawn Achor’s “The Happiness Advantage.” I am always looking to bring more positive psychology into my classes and a good book that links “happiness” with “success” would fit well into my courses. Any recommendations for books linking positive psychology to leadership, performance, success, etc. would be very welcome. Thanks.

    – Bill

  3. Beth permalink

    Hi Bill, I would definitely recommend Shawn’s book. The entire focus of the book is on explaining how happiness leads to success. It is the most business oriented book on positive psychology that I have read. I’ll let you know if I come across something else that might be good for your classes. ~Beth

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