We human beings are very good at constantly moving the goalposts on ourselves. Whenever we set a goal, we often convince ourselves that achieving it will make us happy – that happiness lies on the other side of success. Yet, does it? Do you ever feel completely happy once you’ve fulfilled a certain goal? Or is that goal merely replaced with another goal that is ‘guaranteed’ to help us reach that mysterious, nirvana-like state of happiness?
Success does not equal happiness. Happiness equals success. If you are happy, you will be more successful. Don’t just take my word for it. A study by Lyubomirsky, King and Diener (2005) discussed in the November 2005 issue of Psychological Bulletin found that happiness actually creates the behaviours which are considered fundamental for achieving successful outcomes and that, in fact, being happy appears to enable the individual to become more successful rather than the other way around.
So, why do we focus so much on success as opposed to happiness? Because it’s been part of the way we live for as long as we can recall. How many fairytales do you remember which talk about being happy and then achieving success? How many of them start with the main character living happily and then meeting her dashing Prince Charming? None. Because we are socially conditioned to chase goals that will then enable us to achieve that ever-elusive state of happiness.
Yet nobody talks about what happens to Cinderella if her Prince were to suddenly lose his crown and wealth due to a serious medical condition or a downturn in the markets of Far Far Away. And heaven forbid that we should ever consider Snow White’s eternal happiness should her Prince have turned out to be a dud in the bedroom, or whether or not Hansel and Gretel each needed to have one of their feet amputated due to the early onset of Type II Diabetes thanks to an out-of-control sugar addiction brought on by PTSD. No! Because we want to believe that achieving our goals will actually make us happy.
In order to be genuinely happy, we need to let go of the “success = happiness” model and instead choose to focus on the “happiness = success” model. Now, I’m not going to list the ‘how to’ here because this blog entry would turn into a novel (note that I will be coming back to the ‘how to’ in future blog entries though, so watch this space). I will, however, say this: the first and biggest step involves making the choice and committing to it. Once you do, everything will begin to fall into place over time.
Possibly the most inspiring story I know when it comes to “happiness = success” is that of Bhutan, a small landlocked nation in the Himalayas, who adopted this philosophy in the 1970’s when His Majesty the 4th King of Bhutan pronounced, “Gross National Happiness is more important than gross national product” (cited by Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, 2016). Everything the government does in Bhutan focuses on achieving Gross National Happiness as its primary goal, in order to increase the happiness and wellbeing of its people in a sustainable way. It’s incredibly inspiring – if you have a chance, watch Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s TED Talk about the country’s carbon neutrality from February 2016 (https://www.ted.com/talks/tshering_tobgay_this_country_isn_t_just_carbon_neutral_it_s_carbon_negative)
So if you think you can’t do it – well, you can. If an entire country can do it, so can you. You simply need to choose to make happiness a priority.
Go on. What are you waiting for?
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