Happiness First, Success Later

I've mentioned before that we've got some big changes happening in our lives this year - wonderful changes, but a little daunting too. I was feeling a little fragile this afternoon, and because I generally over-think everything, I started thinking about perceptions and happiness...

I stumbled on this TEDx talk by Shawn Achor speaking about The Happiness Advantage - Shawn really gets to the nitty gritty of this idea at around the 9 min mark in the clip, so if you only have a couple of minutes, just skip ahead to there - where he speaks about happiness coming before success, not after.  Why? Because once you achieve 'success' you change the goal posts - there is always a new goal, a new thing, a new objective. If you define success as achieving your goal, and hinge your ability to be happy on how successful you are (a pretty commonplace way of heading through life in our modern society where we are ingrained to always strive, work hard, achieve, do better), you'll pretty quickly run into problems. But if you reverse the ideal, and find a way to become happier before achieving whatever you are defining as success, you actually supercharge your ability to achieve that success.  In the TEDx talk Shawn says this

If you can raise somebodies level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a Happiness Advantage - which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed...your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed...If you can find a way of becoming positive in the present then our brains work even more successfully.

So in my mind the equation goes something like this

get happy now = think better, feel better, work better = achieve your goal = reinforce happiness rather than achieving your goal and feeling unsatisfied or disappointed.

Shawn goes on to refer to ways you can train your brain to become more positive - meditation, gratitude, journalling, exercise and random acts of kindness (my fav!).

So how does this relate to me being a tad fragile on this Sunday arvo? Well, it's reminded me that positive thinking isn't just some theoretical ideal, it's actually a result of physiological changes in the body. What and how we do stuff affects our mood, as much as the opposite is also true. For me this afternoon it means writing this post, because writing and sharing makes me happy. It means cups of dandelion tea. It means sending a couple of emails that are long overdue. Lemon essential oil in the oil burner and the book I'm reading (The Secret History by Donna Tartt - so very, very engrossing!) waiting for me once I hit publish. It means a call to a friend a little later, and walking the dog in the evening light. It means doing things I want to do, so that I can be happy and feel good when I achieve the things I should be doing, like, say, cleaning the kitchen after bread making this morning. I think I like the sound of this way better than my normal course of action, rewarding myself once I've actually finished the chores...

What do you think? Do you think reframing 'selfish' to self care might make a difference in your life? Have you ever heard of The Happiness Advantage before (or read the book?). Where in your life can you switch the equation to happiness first, success later?

Photo from the awesome Death to the Stock Photo crew.