A science-backed method to have much more fun and achievement in your life.
Do you become happy when you’ve achieved success or do you become successful when you’ve achieved happiness?
This question is almost as tricky as the age-old dilemma on which came first, the chicken or the egg.
Well Harvard alumni, TED Talk star, and researcher Shawn Anchor who penned the bestseller “The Happiness Advantage” found the answer through extensive scientific research. And he didn’t just spend years studying happiness and success; he also notably looked intensely at the extreme outliers — like “the three or four people whose sales are skyrocketing” in a failing organization.
He found there were a few specific traits that “moved people from average to superior”, whether it was in an office, or a low socioeconomic school in Chicago. And, yes he also found the answer to the burning question.
Here’s how you can apply his findings in your own life:
First, know that happiness bring success
How often have you thought “once I get that raise I’ll finally be happy”, or “once I shed a few pounds, I’ll actually be content”?
We often have that next big goal that we think will finally make our lives complete and close the happiness loop, but Anchor found that’s the completely wrong way of thinking.
He not only found that this is a Band Aid solution to happiness, but that:
“You can increase your success rates for the rest of your life and your happiness levels will flatline, but if you raise your level of happiness and deepen optimism it turns out every single one of your success rates rises dramatically compared to what it would have been at negative, neutral, or stressed.”
In a nutshell, shifting your mindset towards being happy now will not only make you more content in the long-run, but it will bring you closer to those big-ticket goals you thought would finally make you happy.
Beyond Anchor’s findings, MET Life found the same exact thing in its salespeople. They saw optimistic employees with this mindset performed 37% better than their counterparts.
So how do you start doing this?
You’re probably thinking that having optimism and happiness to this extreme is a lot easier said than done. Well, it’s not a cakewalk, but research has shown that “just like a muscle at the gym, we can work on it to strengthen it.”
Here’s how Anchor found people exercise this happy mindset:
See Problems As Challenges, Not Threats
Anchor studied employees in finance right after the recession hit (trust me, it wasn’t exactly a fun time to be working in this field), and the few that were happy and resilient saw this troubling time as a challenge, not a threat.
And the ones that were incredibly unhappy were able to shift their mindset — and success — just by seeing a video:
“We watched those groups of people over the next three to six weeks, and what we found was if we could move people to view stress as enhancing, a challenge instead of as a threat, we saw a 23% drop in their stress-related symptoms. It produced a significant increase not only in levels of happiness, but a dramatic improvement in their levels of engagement at work as well.”
It’s simple, by viewing this as a challenge to flex your fantastic traits, you’ll start to see stress and hectic situations in a whole new light.
Realize that these stressful situations are often the only way to truly go into the deep end and see where you’ll actually shine. For instance, riding a bike probably seemed stressful at first, but once you figured out how to do it, you not only evaporated that stress, but you found a new skillset in the process. Even if it means a few slip-ups along the way, know that you’ll come out stronger and happier in the end through these challenges.
The more “challenges” you take on, the more you’ll need others
If you start seeing stress as a challenge, it might seem tempting to hole yourself up in the office, ignore calls from friends, and burn the midnight oil until you become “happy.”
Anchor obviously advises against this, and takes it a step further by suggesting “The people who survive stress the best are the ones who actually increase their social investments in the middle of stress, which is the opposite of what most of us do.”
Even during the most hectic of times, I’ve found it beyond worth it to schedule in time with friends and family. The few hours of lost “work” (which will be incredibly unproductive at that point) are well worth the returns of increased success and happiness when you return.
And people are often genuinely happy to help you navigate the twists and turns as you develop in your career. In fact, one study found that the biggest reason people didn’t mentor or help others professionally was because they weren’t asked.
Speaking as someone who has greatly benefited (and still benefits!) from seeking help from others, being in a position now to give back to a new generation is very rewarding, and it’s one that others will gladly do for you with open arms.
Don’t forget to thank others
Shawn worked with Whole Foods, Microsoft, and Facebook, and he found the easiest way to increase happiness, and in turn success, was a two-minute email praising or thanking one person.
This not only made their entire teams happier, but it increased the teams’ productivity and cohesiveness.
So send an email or text message to people that have made a difference in your life, however trivial, every morning for a few minutes and tell them what you appreciate about them and how thankful you are. Break away from your busy routines and schedule a daily or weekly activity with a friend, a person you want to get to know better, or a group of people and spend time with them.
Make a list if you must. Do this for a month without fail and see how your social connection and your self–appreciation have positively affected your attitude and made you a happier, motivated, and stronger person.
Even if you aren’t exactly content with where you’re at now, don’t be afraid to look at the bright side of things. This is more than just being optimistic, it’s a surefire step to get to where you want to be. When you start thinking that world will open up to you, it will present success in ways you could never even imagine.
What methods have you found to become happier and more successful? I want to hear from you!