Happiness, success and winning are closely linked and heavily dependent on each other. That phrase itself is a life lesson hammered and ingrained in us since the beginning of time. This logic and the resulting process is the age old belief of our society making it what it is now, a life cycle which we wind ourselves in.
Success -> Winning -> Happiness
As it is evident, after reaching that aspired point or position, happiness ensues. Indirectly, it is justified as the nature of happiness which makes it obligatory to come to us post the intended achievement. But in reality, happiness is the base, on which rest of the elements depend. As mentioned in previous posts, it is the state and the journey itself, the experience and not the destination or the completion. Happiness is the sense of fulfillment which one possesses, that allows one to live every moment in its entirety and continue progressing towards a life full of meaning.
Optimistic approach, commonly used in our social discourse as “looking at the positive things is life”, is a life lesson everyone has heard of. It has been overused and at times even misused to the extent that, instead of embracing it as a life skill it is used as a last-resort tool for reassurance, when things start falling apart. That is because without knowing its true meaning and importance we profess it. Another one of our flaws, preaching without knowing, just like our ‘judging without understanding the whole picture’ tradition.
Our brains are wired to be unleashed when truly happy. It means that, our brain performs significantly better than otherwise. Being grateful is one way to achieve that. It is simple, when you accept what you have as a blessing, its value skyrockets, what you looked at as a small house, now becomes the house of your dreams, with the people you love most living along with you. You start seeing what you have and noticing what you had over looked, and soon start paying attention to it. You realize your vision of happiness was just your naive misunderstanding. You will see that you already have everything to be happy about. This will trigger your real self, and you will come into being. Your brain will start functioning like a supercharged jet engine. Things that were holes to be filled will now be the treasure that you cherish the most.
When our brain focuses on the positive, be it something as simple as having food on our table, instead of it powering down due to the overbearing things such as the daily stress or the routine hustle and bustle, it would rather reactivate all brain centres and perform much better towards success. So basically, gratefulness triggers positive emotions not only in us, but also in the people around us. You will be healthy mentally as well as physically.
Several Research Studies have reported these positive effects of gratefulness.
(Research conducted by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough provides us with the following insights
Internal Rewards of Gratefulness
+ more optimistic
+ more enthusiastic
+ more joyful
+ more energetic
+ more determined
+ exercised more
+ better physical & mental health
+ more helpful
– fewer illnesses
– less stressed
– less depressive
– less anxious
– less envious
Simple Acts of Gratefulness that make big changes
-> lending a helping hand to someone
-> noting down daily things that you are grateful for
-> practicing to focus on the positive things surrounding you
Shawn Achor, American author, known for his bestseller, ‘The Happiness Advantage’, advocates the power of positive psychology. He postulates the age old principles of attaining happiness, which evidently states that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow.
His study proves that, external world isn’t predictive of your happiness as much as you and your inner self are. External world(material world, possessions, financial conditions) can only predict 10% of your long term happiness. The real determiner/predictor or the causal factor of your happiness is your inner self, your lens or the perspective through which you see the world. That determines 90% of your long term happiness.
As he suggests, we need to change the formula for happiness and success, then we can change how it affects reality. The analysis data reinforces this justification. For example, only 25% of your job success is predicted by your IQ, the rest(75%) is predicted by your optimism levels, social support, your ability to see stress as a challenge instead as a threat.
Again, our misconception, if I work harder I will be more successful, if I am more successful then I will be happier. This has for long been the basis for most of our teaching, parenting & managing styles. It has been the ideal way of motivating our behaviour. The bottom line which Shawn presents, might resonate well. The above belief is scientifically broken for two reasons. One, every time our brain has a success we just change the goal post of what success looks like and every time the goal is changed to a new one. It is like the story of two friends who plan to climb the mountain, while one rushes his way to the top only to set the next mountain as the goal, the other lives every bit of the journey, taking in the distinct experience, as he makes his way to the top. The latter finishing only to be more satisfied, while the former exhausted only to begin chasing after the next goal.
The central idea being, if happiness is on the other side of success your brain never gets there. In this manner, as a society we have pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon. But the real problem is that our brains work in the opposite order. If you raise your level of positivity in the present, then you have the happiness advantage. Your brain at positive performs significantly better than your brain at neutral negative or stressed.
This can be tackled through ‘Happiness Advantage’. How do we gain that advantage, you ask? 4 simple steps, as presented by Shawn Achor, the author himself.
Small Steps for a Lasting Positive Change :
3 steps of Gratitude (as stated above)
– Take 2 mins daily to write down things you were grateful for on that day, for 21 days in a row, rewires your brain and enables you to see things more positively.
Journaling (Slatcher & Pennebaker)
– Revisit by noting down one positive experience you had in the past 24 hours, allows your brain to relive it.
Exercise (Babyak & Others)
– Boosts your brain, and trains it to tune your behavior.
– Meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD of multitasking, allowing you to focus on one task at a time and perform better towards success.
Random Acts of Kindness (Lyubomirsky)
– Write one positive email for any person or acquaintance, praising or thanking them, just for being there or getting to know them.
Advantages of the Happiness Advantage :
Better secure jobs
Better keeping jobs
“It is the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.” – Shawn Achor