“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Aristotle
“Happiness is the ultimate currency,” Professor Tal Ben-Shahar
Happiness; the ultimate currency.
Through Success on the Far Side of Fifty I am committed to exploring and sharing tactics and strategies that everyone, regardless of age can use to live a better life. After extensive research I am left with one conclusion; on some level every goal, every ambition and every dream is about the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is at the root of all other pursuits. The pursuit of success, regardless of form, is really the pursuit of happiness. We chase health, wealth, relationships and achievement only because at some level, we expect those things will make us happier.
Why is happiness the ultimate currency?
The short version is that happiness is what I call a key success factor. In other being in a state of happiness makes the achievement of success in other areas easier and more fulfilling.
Research conducted by happiness expert and author Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky demonstrates proof of the following statements;
- Higher levels of happiness can mean higher income,
- Increased levels of happiness equals greater health,
- Improved levels of happiness means greater levels of social connection,
- Higher levels of happiness is linked to greater self-esteem,
- Increased levels of happiness even means higher levels of creativity.
Most of us have it backwards
In other words the majority of us have our priorities backwards. we fruitlessly pursue fame, fortune and material success in the hope that those things will provide us increased levels of happiness but we usually find the opposite to be true.
On one hand we spend a great deal of time feeling like a failure for not yet having achieved our dreams of massive wealth and fame. On the other hand, when we do achieve a dream we are always left with a feeling of “OK, what’s next.”
Part of the problem is due to a phenomenon called “hedonic adapation” or the “hedonic treadmill” . Hedonic adaptation simply means that people have a very strong tendency to return to a base level of happiness regardless of change to external circumstance. For example a study of both lottery winners and people who became quadriplegic due to accidents shows that hedonic adaptation works in both directions. The lottery winners returned to their previous state of happiness within about a year, as did the people who suffered terrible accidents.
To read more about the research check out THIS article from Business Insider.
Another very telling bit of research explores the impacts of fame and fortune.
Of 252 people who were named on Rolling Stones list of 100 greatest artists 82 have died. According to THIS CNN article people named to the 100 greatest artists list have roughly the same life expectancy as people living in the poorest of African countries.
The truth is that fame and fortune probably wont make you any happier and you may find out that the sacrifices required to achieve those things may, in fact, may reduce your levels of happiness.
5 important happiness practices
According to Professor Lyubomirsky‘swork there are 5 key activities that, if practiced on a very regular basis, will overtime increase our base levels of happiness.
Those activities are:
- Practice gratitude,
- Engaging in positive and self regulatory thinking about oneself
- Practicing kindness and giving to other people
- Living according to your values,
- Taking time to enjoy positive experiences
While there are many factors that determine the precise effect of these practices on base levels of happiness one thing is for certain. They will have a positive effect. According to happiness researcher and acclaimed author Shaun Achor a daily gratitude practice will improve base levels of happiness by about 10%, which is, to me, a massive increase.
Adding the pursuit of happiness to the success formula
While the research clearly demonstrates that creating conditions for increased levels of happiness is one of the most uses of our time we can actually do even better if we combine the 5 happiness practices with other goals. For instance;
Do you think you would increase your career potential if you focused on the best parts of your work rather than the worst?
Do you think you would have more and stronger relationships if you focused on being kind, giving and took the time to enjoy the positive experiences within that relationship?
Even exercising, dieting and starting your own business would be so much easier if you could be more grateful, practiced a better mindset and lived according to your values.
It is my firm belief that incorporating the 5 practices of happiness into any of our goals will make us more successful in both the long and short term.
As a business person there are some tasks that I enjoy less than other tasks. For example I vastly prefer writing over research. I enjoy the learning part of research more than the documentation side of it. When I started focusing on enjoying the learning rather than paying attention to the monotonous grind of documentation the whole process became more fun. Because I find it more enjoyable I am now researching more and doing a better job of it.
So rather than pursue success in hopes that you will become happier try pursuing happiness within your personal definition of success.
Chances you will become both happier and more successful.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions for upcoming posts please let me know.
As always thanks for reading Success on the Far side of Fifty.