The Pursuit of Happiness

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Be happy… Not because everything is good, but because you can see the good side of everything” -Author Unknown

The world around us is chaotic. Life and work is moving fast and can often bring stress and undue pressure even for the most composed and organised ones among us. Many think that the harder they work the more successful they will become and hence the happier their lives will be. While there is a direct correlation between success and happiness, we all know that success does not always bring happiness. The question is: does happiness increase your chances of success?

Most people I come across are generally happy and positive but not enough people pursue happiness. Research has shown that people are more successful when they are happy and positive. This is because happy people are more likely to behave in ways that lead to success. If therefore, our ability to achieve success somewhat depends on happiness, will we be more inclined to pursue it? Shawn Achor offers us the Happiness Advantage. In his book, he describes 7 principles of positive psychology that may help us perform better and achieve success:

  • The positivity factor – This encompasses what Achor calls the Happiness Advantage. A positive brain does have a biological advantage because happiness is characterised by emotions of joy, hope, inspiration, serenity, pride, love etc. all of which fuel creativity. The happier we are, the more motivated we are to do the things that help us achieve our goals and consequently make us successful.

ACTION: Figure out the things that bring you joy, hope, inspiration, serenity, love, pride and surround yourself with those things.

  • How do you see the world?-  A glass is either half full or half empty. It just depends on your outlook – positive or negative. We are able to significantly change our outcomes based on our perception of the situations we find ourselves in. I was once told the tale of a man who tried to escape captivity. He had scaled nine fences in a bid to reach freedom. After the ninth fence he managed to convince himself there was no way out and proceeded to scale the nine fences back to captivity. Well it turns out there was only one more fence he needed to scale to reach his freedom!

ACTION: Change your mind-set. You can empower yourself to experience life differently by changing the meaning that you give to things and situations you find yourself in.

  • Train Your Brain To See The Opportunities – Our brains are programmed to act in patterns that we create. If we respond to an event, time and time again in a certain way, then we create a pattern for our brains to follow. The “tetris effect” is the notion that you can retrain your brain to spot patterns of possibility instead of impossibility and to seek out opportunity instead of weaknesses.

ACTION: Consciously look for opportunities in everyday life. Do it consistently for one month and your brain will naturally adjust itself.

  • Find A Way Out – Life happens. Sometimes negative things will happen or failure happens. What matters is how we respond. My pastor always says failure is an event not the definition of a person. You must find a way out of the situation and move forward. The only way to deal with a negative event or failure is to confront it and deal with it.

ACTION: “Falling up” is a strategy to get yourself up when things go wrong. Find a path that not only takes you out of the challenge, but makes you stronger.

  • Zero In –   Some people love a challenge, others don’t. What is important is that we know what our capacity is. When life becomes chaotic or challenging the tendency for many people is that they become flustered, confused and likely to act irrationally.

ACTION: Focus on smaller goals or targets that you can manage and gradually increase your capacity as you get comfortable.

  • The 20 Second Rule – Deciding to become a happier person requires you to commit to seeing and doing things differently but that in itself presents a challenge – the willpower to commit! When given a choice we are more likely to choose activities that are comfortable over those that challenge or stretch us. This is because good habits take effort and that’s where the problem lies. We often focus on the effort required to complete a task and immediately become overwhelmed by it. Achor offers a cracking solution which is to focus only on the initial action to start the activity and make it really easy to do. Achor states that   – “In physics, activation energy is the initial spark needed to catalyse a reaction. The same energy, both physical and mental, is needed of people to overcome inertia and kick-start a positive habit.”  For example if you have committed to eating healthily and you find that you don’t because you have to clean and peel fresh vegetables after a long day at work then you may want to opt for frozen or prepared vegetables which takes little or no time (20 seconds) to get out of the fridge and start cooking. That way you eliminate the challenge of preparation! The opposite is also true for eliminating bad habits. Make it hard enough to access the habit and your brain naturally drops the habit.

ACTION: Decrease the activation energy you need to do positive habits and increase it for negative habits.

  • Social Investment – Networks are valuable. The value of social capital is an indication of the size and health of your social network. Your social network are the people and relationships you rely on and are often key in helping you navigate challenging times and situations.

ACTION: Invest time and energy in the people that make up your social network. 

“Happiness is not the lack of troubles, it’s the capacity to deal with them” – Author Unkonwn

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