Attitude is everything. The Happiness Advantage provides key insights into how your moods make or break your chances of success.
The Happiness Advantage shows how your success is linked to your mindset
I recently read The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. And he believes that while success feels good it is the mindset of being happy that brings the success we enjoy. People who’ve conducted happiness research found that happiness is a key factor in every area of our lives. Our work, our relationships, our health, and our creativity are all positively impacted by how happy we are.
Psychologists have known for a long time that negativity and depression inhibit our ability to respond to challenges and to think and act effectively. I know some of my worst decisions have been borne out of a negative mindset. Our negativity also creates a self-reinforcing reality where everything goes wrong, every traffic light is red, and we cannot do anything right.
But when we come at a problem from a perspective of positivity and happiness then we lower our stress levels. Our brains produce more pleasure-inducing chemicals,. We have more energy and determination to pursue and catch success.
Why happiness leads to more success than unhappiness
Shawn Achor believes that we create our own realities. In a sense, this is absolutely true. The way we perceive our daily activities defines how we see the rewards of our efforts. When we can imagine ourselves in a positive light, we increase our confidence in our abilities to achieve our goals.
An experiment involving a group of 75-year old men produced some surprising results. The project isolated the men for a week in a mock environment that recreated the feeling of 20 years earlier. Books, magazines, television programs, furniture, and other visual and physical cues reinforced the impression. The group was to act just as they had in 1959, in effect, time-travel backward two decades and see themselves as 55-year old men.
Afterward, the men took a range of physical and mental tests, the majority of subjects improved in every category. The takeaway was that their mindset, reinforced through the environment, had a real-world effect on their bodies and brains.
Negativity induces stress and makes us less likely to take risks. It keeps us from pursuing opportunities or acting outside our circle of comfort. In the end, we make bad choices, take up bad habits, or engage in self-sabotaging behaviors.
Positivity and happiness and show to contribute to confidence, improved mental performance, and increased physical performance. Athletes and businesspersons embrace a “can-do” attitude when striving for a goal. Being happier makes us more likely to believe we will succeed. And when we believe it, we shape our reality to reflect our beliefs.
The “happiness advantage” gives you an edge
Positive feelings fuel our performance and give us a competitive edge. The Happiness Advantage shows that it is success that orbits happiness… not the other way around. Happy people don’t see their happiness as a reward for the hard work they’ve done. Instead, it is their happiness mindset that has given them the motivation to succeed.
We all know the adage: “Time flies when you are having fun”. Our brains treat challenges and chores differently depending on whether we are happy or depressed. People who are happy tend to work longer and be more productive in the time they have. The work is the reward, and doing it well stimulates them to be more successful. Also, people who are happy make better teammates, and a positive attitude will lift the group up and make them more effective at problem-solving, brain-storming, and communication.
Happier people build better relationships, which can then lead to increased success as well. In areas where trust, networking, and emotional intelligence are key, a happiness advantage will give you an edge.
Looking for the positive instead of accepting the negative gives you a happiness advantage
A single event is seen from multiple viewpoints, yet the perspective of those views vary widely. Events in themselves are pretty much neutral. They are not good or bad within themselves. It takes a person’s perspective to determine if the event is going to have a positive or negative impact.
Training ourselves to look for the positive even in a bad situation is huge in determining if we are going to be happy and successful. Putting a happy spin on an accident or failure is an exercise in altering our reality. If we can change our viewpoint, then we allow ourselves to be open to unexpected opportunities or pathways to success.
- When I was fired from a job I was depressed and lost at first because of the stigma society attached to things like being fired. But, when I looked at the situation I realized that I was very unhappy in that job. I took my time and found a job that I really enjoyed, and my happiness made me work better and let to raises and promotions. Being fired from a job I didn’t like was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
- In a famous example, the laboratory of Thomas Edison caught fire and burned. Edison and his family watched from behind the fire lines as all his research, prototypes, and inventions went up in flames. Several chemical compounds caused the flames to burn with a variety of bright and intense colors. Instead of being devastated at the loss of all his hard work, Edison told his family to take in the marvelous show and delight in it.
- Franklin Roosevelt was a strapping young man who contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. He counted himself lucky to be alive and relentlessly pursued positivity, becoming one of the most inspiring, uplifting, cheerful, and successful people in history.
There is no doubt that challenges will come along that will “make or break” us. We cannot avoid contact with life. What determines if we are made or broken is how we respond to these challenges. Our ability to employ the happiness advantage will give us the midset to turn coal into diamonds.
Teach yourself to be happy – train your brain
In the absence of the happiness advantage, our primitive program can take over. And our primal instincts can tend to be negative. An aversion to risk and desire to avoid death produced the fight or flight response responsible for preserving us as a species. But happiness can be sown, grown, and cultivated. We can train ourselves to reshape our minds to have more positive outlooks more often.
- First, detach yourself from the event itself. No event, after all, is inherently good or bad. If a car cuts you off in traffic, it is your response that determines your perceptions of the event. View the event as neutral, and choose the response you want to have.
- Express gratitude for the positive things in your life. It can be easy to get down in the dumps and feel like no one has it as bad as you. Objectively, that is almost certainly not true. In the coronavirus crisis of 2020, I lost tens of thousands of dollars in employment and stood to lose my home. Yet I could still be grateful for my health, the health and safety of my family, and the opportunity the crisis gave me to be for frugal and attentive to my budget. Having a gratitude ritual will remind you of all the good things you have every day in your life. It will train your mind to see more positively as well.
- Regularly imagine, but don’t endorse the worst-case scenario. This was a Stoic practice, where we contemplate the absolute worse outcome to a situation, then asked themselves if they could live with that result. Of course, the reality is very often not the worst-case scenario. We realize that fear has magnified the negative and limited our choices. An exercise of considering the worst possible outcome also allows us to come up with options. Knowing there are ways out of a situation always makes the situation more tolerable. It may be one of the only instances where thinking negatively actually leads to a positive mindset.
- To write the happiness advantage into your brain’s software, practice some form of mediation regularly. A mindfulness practice will reroute neural pathways in the brain and develop grey matter. It will temper your response to adversity and allow you to physically calm your body through attention to the breath. This response will become your new normal, and being calm is the best place from which to face a problem.
I am using “The Happiness Advantage” to lose weight and get fit
After reading “The Happiness Advantage”, I came away with several lessons which can help me in my weight loss and fitness journey. Learning that having a happy mindset brings success helps me a lot. Taking away the power of fear or disappointment by looking for the good in a situation makes it more likely I will stick with my dieting and exercise goals.
Instead of punishing myself for failures and becoming discouraged, I can now take a new view. I can detach myself from the failure and choose to learn from my mistakes and adapt my methods. I can actually be glad for the failures because they have helped me grow and improve.
My positivity not only reshapes my reality, but it affects the realities of others I encounter. People unconsciously mimic behaviors of those around them, as in mob mentality. When someone laughs we almost involuntarily smile or laugh, too. They say that misery loves company, but most people want to be around someone with positive energy who lifts them up. I want my happiness to lead to success, and I want to elevate the happiness of others so they can be successful, too.