Have Happy People Found a Simple Secret to Success?
How happy people get what they want from life
Someday, after I make enough money, receive enough recognition, and acquire everything I’ve dreamed about, then I’ll be happy!
Ever thought that?
I spent my twenties waiting to be happy, telling myself that the situation and circumstances at the time weren’t “right,” and happiness would have to be put on hold — until I deserved to be happy.
Back then, I hadn’t found my calling. I hadn’t made a million dollars. I hadn’t been recognized for my expertise. I didn’t live in a mansion perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I hadn’t found the love of my life.
Happiness came with prerequisites. And until I completed them, I couldn’t be happy.
It’s been a long wait.
I’ve completed a few of the prerequisites. I made the million and found the love of my life. But the mansion on the cliff? It never rose to the top of the list. And the recognition? It’s no longer important to me.
After too many years of striving to achieve some subjective level of success, I’ve realized that success and happiness actually do have a connection, but not in the way I believed in my youth.
Happy people tend to be more successful because they’re happy to begin with!
In a study by Leslie Riopel in Positive Psychology, the results indicated successful people credit a great deal of their success to their internal attitude. They believed a positive, uplifting, and optimistic attitude had gained them influence and recognition. It opened doors and created opportunities.
In short, these folks defined happiness as being involved in the process of doing something that mattered, pursuing goals and activities they personally defined as the highest priority in their lives. They also expressed an on-going appreciation for the people in their lives, and for the circumstances that brought them together.
But that wasn’t the most important finding from the study . . .
“Happy people tend to be more successful because of the impact they have on others.”
Here’s one explanation: Unless you win the lottery or inherit the family fortune, you’re going to have to work for financial success. And one of the basic criteria for achieving that goal depends on other people’s perception of your personality and attitude.
Most people want to be around those who are happy, positive, and uplifting. They’re also more inclined to do business with them and share financial opportunities because they perceive happy people as being more deserving.
(Just the opposite of my juvenile thinking. Instead of deserving to be happy because of success, others see us as deserving of success because we’re already happy!)
For example, if you had the chance to hire an assistant, would you choose someone who is positive and enjoyable to be around, or the neighborhood grouch? If they were equally qualified, the decision is easy. We like being around people who are pleasant — those who leave us inspired and feeling good about ourselves.
So does happiness really have its own reward?
It certainly looks that way.
Contrary to the traditional mindset suggesting some level of success must precede happiness, the probability of success is enhanced by happiness. In other words, happy people tend to be more successful because they want to be.
Here are the conclusions drawn from the research study:
Happy people tend to receive higher job evaluations and better performance ratings than those who are perceived as “problem people.” This was true even when the actual quality or quantity of work performed by both types of individuals was the same. (And remember, higher job performance ratings often lead to promotions and even greater opportunities for success.)
Those whose job is to hire and promote often interpreted a happy candidate as someone who was healthy and emotionally well-rounded. Both traits are hard to put a dollar value on, but they made a difference when one candidate was compared to another. In basic terms, it means many promotions and positions are awarded simply because the person is more “likeable.”
Happy people are often more open to risk and trying out new opportunities. The most disgruntled, unhappy workers are those who have one year of experience, repeated twenty times. They stay put, tolerating situations they claim they hate. They spend their time bitching and moaning about everything that’s wrong, rather than taking action to correct the situation. Changing jobs, starting a new business, or committing to a new romantic relationship is fraught with risk. But without trying — without taking the risk — we’ll never know how good our lives can be.
Happy people are perceived to have better communication skills. Happy people are considered to be less subversive, less threatening, and more trustworthy. Protective bias and suspicion are reduced when we’re around happy people. It’s as if they’ve found the secret to life and are willing to share it with us — making us more receptive to what they have to say.
Here’s the Takeaway . . .
Remember the old saying, “Fake it until you make it?”
This refers to intentionally demonstrating the outward indications of positive personality traits — like confidence and self-assurance — until the behavior generates a supportive belief. If you do something long enough, it eventually becomes part of your nature.
The idea can also work for happiness. Especially when you realize that happiness is not dependent upon external experiences, but an understanding and appreciation of the big picture — being alive, being healthy, enjoying positive relationships with others, and getting the most you can from the time that remains.
Thanks for reading,
Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.
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