To be successful, put happiness first
Our formula for happiness is completely wrong
If you have never watched Shawn Achor's 2011 TED talk on happiness and success, you're missing out. It's not only entertaining. Achor unravels a deep human mystery: our culture puts happiness out of reach, "over the cognitive horizon," by making it dependent upon success. However, his research shows that being happy first is actually a secret to being successful.
Happiness now = Success in the future
I found that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I'll be more successful. And if I'm more successful, then I'll be happier...
And the problem is it's scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we're going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We've pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that's because we think we have to be successful, then we'll be happier.
But our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage.
Also, re: science
Besides his central message, Achor makes some coy observations about science and research:
We’re creating the cult of the average with science... If I asked a question like, "How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?" scientists change the answer to "How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?" and we tailor the class towards the average… If we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average.
If I got this data studying you, I would be thrilled, because there's a trend there, and that means that I can get published, which is all that really matters. There is one weird red dot above the curve, there's one weirdo in the room -- I know who you are, I saw you earlier -- that's no problem. That's no problem, as most of you know, because I can just delete that dot. I can delete that dot because that's clearly a measurement error. And we know that's a measurement error because it's messing up my data.
If you're not into watching the TED talk, consider Achor's Havard Business Review article, "The Happiness Dividend."