Does Success Lead to Happiness?

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “after ______, then I’ll be happy”

“After I get a raise, than I’ll be happy.”

“After I finish this project, than I’ll be happy.”

“After I lose 10 pounds, than I’ll be happy”

For many of us the thought of future success is what motivates us.

For example, “Work is really shitty, and I hate my boss, and I only being paid pennies…. after I get a raise though, then I’ll be happy. I’ll finally be able to pay all my bills without worrying.”

While sure, in some twisted way, it motivate us now, is it possible that we could actually be setting our for a less successful life?

Does Success Lead to Happiness?

Most of our life we run around thinking that success will lead to happiness. But according to the research done by Harvard professor Shawn Achor that he presented in his book (and one of my favorites) “The Happiness Factor,” the truth is, our happiness can actually be what leads us to success.

“A lot of people aspire to be productive so they can become happier, but happiness has been shown to lead to productivity, not the other way around.”

His studies have shown that a brain at positive perform significantly better than at negative, neutral, or stressed. This includes increases in our intelligence, creativity and energy levels, quoting that people are actually 31% more productive with in a positive mindset.

Now sucks, or does it?

Think of it like this…  By creating this dreamy picture in our mind about the happy future success brings, it makes the present seem miserable.

“Now sucks,” we think. “The future, that’s where the happiness is.”

By living in this “now sucks” mindset where everything wonderful is in the future, we are placing unnecessary misery on top of our days.

This not only makes us less happy now, it also prevents us from greater success in the future, which in turn also affects future success.

So what does this mean?

In a nutshell, we can’t look at success as a pathway to our happiness.  Instead we need to start thinking of it as a cycle which starts and end with happiness.  

How can we do that now?

Shawn recommends to first stop to equating a future success with happiness.

Challenge: The stories we tell ourselves create the realities of our lives.  Try to become more aware of saying, “after ______, I’ll be happy,” and immediately think of one thing that you are grateful in that moment.

“The most successful people, the ones with the competitive edge, don’t look to happiness as some distant reward for their achievements, nor grind through their days on neutral or negative; they are the ones who capitalize on the positive and reap the rewards at every turn.” - Shawn Achor

What other sorts of ways do you create happiness at work or though out the day?  Love to here them in the comments :D

p.s. Interested in learning more? Pick up Shawn’s book, “The Happiness Advantage” and make sure to watch his incredible TED talk below: