This post is inspired and based on the TEDTalk speech of Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor.
You can watch his presentation here:
What is the ultimate goal of life? The majority of people will
answer with one word: Happiness.
But how do we become happy? What is the most effective path that
will lead us to the Happiness paradise?
I am pretty sure you are wondering the exact same thing.
Well, the Happiness model of our society lies on the Success – Happiness formula. This formula has been driving the West for the last 300 years. It is the heart of capitalism.
Its motto is very simple:
Do you want to be happy? Then, you have to be successful first.
Success leads to happiness. Success is the necessary condition to feel and be happy. It is a very simple formula. Why is it so widely accepted in our society? Simply because Success can be measured! Capitalism is based on performance and measurable achievements.
This is the only way for the system to survive and grow. It needs to have control of every process. Capitalism needs to create successful people according to its criteria, not happy people. Happiness is a very vague concept. It can mean anything and give space to people to be “off track”.
It is a broader concept that encompasses the individual holistically, whereas success is a much narrower concept that focuses on measurable achievements in specific areas.
Capitalism has successfully managed to associate and directly correlate the achievement of Success as the necessary condition for
Do you want to feel this vague thing called Happiness? Then you have to accomplish very concrete and measurable achievements.
After that, everybody will be happy!
Does this formula work? Yes and no. It absolutely works regarding the Success part of the formula and mainly fails for the Happiness part. The formula succeeds to produce successful but mainly unhappy people.
Stress seems to have a twofold role: to be the motivator for more success
and, at the same time, the reason for people remaining unhappy. How can this happen though? How can people be unhappy after achieving so many great things?
The answer is that in the present formula, Happiness is placed outside of our selves. We are waiting for something else to happen in order for us to feel happy. We must first succeed. Success is placed in the center of our lives. However, when we succeed, we always postpone the Happiness moment, since we re-establish, time after time, the definition of success. For example, I get a good job, but now I want a better job. I get a car and now I want a better car. I get good marks but now I want higher marks.
When we succeed in something, we feel a deep satisfaction. The feeling is really fulfilling ..for the moment. At times, one could even claimthis is Happiness! Is it though?
Since I now have this fantastic dream job, I can buy the new car I always wanted and I can afford this huge mortgage to purchase the house of my dreams. Now, I am very tight in my calculations and I better keep my job with satisfactory results so as at the end of the year I can receive a good bonus and, if I demonstrate an outstanding performance, maybe I will get another promotion or, at least, a good salary increase in the next two years. It is only two years… I know I can do it! Oh, I forgot, I hope there will be
no surprises with the US and / or world economy!
Does this scenario look familiar to you? Does this person sound happy to you? Do you recognize this way of thinking in every aspect of your life?
I will / would be really happy when / if:
- I lose these extra 2-3 kilos.
- I will get this bonus / promotion
- I have this car / home
- I do this plastic surgery …and the list is endless and always renewable…
This formula has reached its limits. The whole system will collapse if we continue to work and live based on this Success - Happiness formula.
But is there anything else to compete with it?
Many would claim as a solution a Buddhist approach, that is, a complete detachment from the materialistic world and its fake values. Others will claim a Christian approach with the Christian values at the forefront of all our actions.
Although these approaches may be working and can lead to a state of mind of peacefulness and happiness, I really do not think that the complete adoption of their traditional forms, without the necessary transformations, is practical in the working society of the 21stcentury. We must always keep in mind the social context of the situation we want to improve, because nothing happens in a social vacuum.
However, there are Buddhist practices such as meditation, and Christian values such as gratefulness, that can be used very effectively to provide a new way to approach the Success - Happiness formula.
The new formula cannot be completely detached from a capitalistic approach. It must contain the notion of ROI (Return on Investment). Either way, we have to persuade the technocrats that this will work. We have to demonstrate measurable results. We have to provide a formula where Success will still be a part of the equation. In other words, the new formula has to speak the language of measurable achievements, the language of numbers, and the language of science.
Based on scientific evidence, it seems that there is a better way to work with the Success – Happiness formula. What we should do is simply reverse the formula, making Happiness - Success its new format. Whereas the old formula puts Success as its input and Happiness as outcome, this one puts Happiness as input and Success as outcome.
The new formula is based on the scientific evidence that our brains work in a specific way and if we want to maximize people’s performance, we must first align our actions according to our brain’s way of functioning. More specifically, it has been found that if we raise someone’s level of positiveness in the present, the brain then experiences what is called a happiness advantage.
What does this mean?
Simply that when our brains are in a positive mood / state, we perform in every aspect of our lives significantly better! We learn more easily, we focus better, our intelligence, creativity, and energy levels rise and, according to studies, every business outcome improves (superior productivity, less burnouts, less turnover, greater sales, etc.).
The above findings indicate that we can reverse the formula of Success - Happiness. If we can find a way to become positive , a way to feel happy in the present, then our brains will work even more successfully in every aspect of our life, resulting in us working harder, faster and more intelligently.
Here is the good news: Research finds that there is a way to rewire our brains so that we feel happy.
If we do the following things for 21 days in row, we will actually reprogram our brain to act more optimistically and, as such, more successfully.
For 21 days in row:
- Write 3 new things you learned about your job and that you are grateful for
After doing the above for 21 days in row, the brain starts to retain a pattern. It is scanning the world not for the negative but for the positive things first. The brain develops the habit of looking and asking for positive, challenging, transformative, motivational information first. Also, you program / teach your brain to be able to perceive every situation as a half full rather than a half empty cup, to be able to recognise and find the positive, promising, and good elements in any given situation.
- Journal about one positive experience you have had
in the past 24 hours
This activity allows the brain to relive the positive experience, enhancing the level of positiveness in your day. At the same time, you also create a long-term memory for these events, to the point where, after a while, they seem to be the only things happening in your life.
Meditation enhances the brain’s ability to better focus on the task at hand. The list of benefits of meditation is actually endless. I would simply state here that it is a must do, everyday practice for everyone. For a more detailed list of benefits that meditation offers, you can visit this site:
where you will find a list of 100 benefits at a physiological, psychological and spiritual level.
Exercise teaches the brain that behavior matters. If you want to have specific results, then you better follow specific behaviors. Exercise changes your attitude towards everyday challenges. Our brains and bodies are connected and therefore any action on our body affects our mind and vice versa. When we exercise regularly, a series of actions take place: we boost our metabolism, we regulate stress hormones like cortisol, and we promote the release of endorphins, substances which make us feel euphoric. I would say working out is the best way to make you feel high, thinking positive, and in a good mood, all of which, depending on the exercise intensity, can last up to 12 hours.
- Random acts of kindness
By committing random acts of kindness (you can also plan your acts of kindness in advance) you will feel a deep satisfaction and happiness. Science finds that helping others and being altruistic releases endorphins in the brain which results in experiencing happiness emotions. It doesn’t have to be something big and extreme. Small acts and even beautiful thoughts expressed for another person can be equally powerful.
- Give someone a hug
- Say “I love you” to your spouse
- Bring something to offer at the office
- Buy a friend a coffee
- Give money to the homeless
- Hold the door for someone
- Donate old books to the library
- Give a compliment
The above 21-day program will help you develop a pattern for being positive in the present and harness the happiness advantage it causes. Being positive and feeling happy most of the time is the best warranty that we are going to better perform in any endeavour we undertake. Success will come as a natural and effortless consequence of just being happy with our lives.
Although the above program has demonstrated an evidence of change for the people who followed it, for more sustainable results one should follow a complete program of Emotional Intelligence coaching.
A complete Emotional Intelligence analysis of oneself will reveal the strengths and the weaknesses that one has to work with in order to maximize the power of the Happiness – Success formula.
copyright © 2019 Vasileios Bourmpounis