There’s enough scientific evidence that being happy brings success. This is contrary to our deep rooted beliefs and actions.
We have been hardwired to believe that being successful precedes being happy. Well-being in our life can only come after we are successful. The way societies and education systems are structured post industrial revolution across the globe, we work and study hard to achieve success. More often than not, this style of living is coupled with stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. These emotions are opposite of how happiness can be defined.
Definition of Happiness
Happiness is the experience of frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger.
The above definition is given by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues in their study on The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?
I feel the definition could have been a little broader to include a sense of belongingness and having a purpose in life. However, for our purpose this is good enough.
Another crucial point to note is that the amount of time spent being happy is far more important than the intensity of the feeling of happiness.
What brings happiness?
There have been multiple philosophies on what factors contribute to our happiness. At times these are even contradictory to each other. For your academic understanding you might like to delve deeper in some of the important ones like Epicurean Happiness and Stoic Happiness Triangle.
A Harvard study on adult development found that the quality of our social relationships is the most important factor influencing our long term happiness.
There are many other factors which influence an individual’s happiness. However, I particularly like the 50-10-40 formula of happiness given by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. According to this 50% of our happiness can be attributed to our genes, 10% to our circumstances and 40% to our attitude, optimism or our internal state of mind. The numbers might not be accurate but it gives us a very important clue that we can control a considerable part of our happiness. Being happy can also be the result of very simple things in your life like learning trivial stuff regularly.
How does happiness result in success?
When you’re high-spirited you’re better prepared to handle work pressure and the resultant stress. This positively impacts your productivity and creativity.
Secondly, when you’re perceived as a good-humored and radiant individual, you become socially more attractive. Thus you develop stronger bonds with other people in the organization because of the agreeableness.
A cheerful individual, low on neuroticism will be emotionally more stable and thus more resilient in tough times and difficult situations.
All the above factors result in personal success in the long term for any individual.
Pursuit of happiness can be counter-productive.
When our mind gets the signal that we are pursuing happiness, the first conclusion it makes is, we are not currently happy and we are trying to be happy. This exercise of trying to be happy will rarely be effective.
A more effective way is to make ‘being happy’ as our default setting. By default I mean, the feeling you are in when you’re not encountering any other emotion like sadness or anger or guilt or sexually aroused. You’re just comfortable in your own skin. In short, if your default is being grumpy or tense or depressed, you should intentionally come back to being happy.
As human beings, we are complex and we are capable of having a myriad cocktail of emotions at different times and at same time also. We should not try to suppress any feelings, whether good or bad. Being aware and acknowledging how you feel now, makes you better off in the long run.