Can happiness lead to success?


What if everything we've learned about success leading to happiness is backwards? Studies show that happy people are up to 30% more productive. These positive people also suffer from less burnout, and take fewer sick days. What if happiness directly leads to our success and not the other way around? This is becoming a hot topic of research at business schools. Raj Raghunathan is an associate professor at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business and writes the Sapient Nature blog for Psychology Today. I heard him speak at the UT Libraries a couple weeks ago and was intrigued by this idea. So many people define success as overcoming obstacles and reaching goals. But what happens then? We move the finish line. We set more challenges and goals. So that means we put happiness just out of our reach or at the next goal. Can we redefine happiness, and therefore success?

Shawn Achor author of The Happiness Advantage and former teaching fellow at Harvard University is also researching in this field. He explains that we get in a negative mindset and will always look for the negative. Can we change our viewpoint? What about the negative nellies? Is being a pessimist genetic? Achor says it is possible to change the way we think and become more positive. Raghunathan also believes we can get happy-smart and make happiness a priority.

What can you do to become more positive?

  • Be grateful - for 21 days write down 3 things you are grateful for and why
  • Exercise - get those endorphins flowing
  • Stop multitasking - focus and learn to meditate (even for just 2 minutes a day)
  • Think of others - volunteer or praise/thank just one person each day

The research shows that happiness is actually contagious. So theoretically as a manager or team member, you could spread positivity to your colleagues and help them become more productive and successful.