“Study hard, get good marks. Then you will be happy.”
“Find a good job. Then you will be happy.”
“Work hard to get a promotion. Then you will be happy.”
These are the ideas that we have been fed since our childhood. From a very young age, we receive this message that you need to struggle now in the hope of achieving long-term happiness. We are told that happiness is like this everlasting blissful state, waiting at the end of a dark tunnel and you need to work hard to get there.
Happiness is something we put off for the unforeseen future when the potential to be happy is found in every moment of the day, every day.
Spending quality time with family and friends brings waves of joy. Dancing to your favourite music makes you feel happy. Eating your favourite food while watching a good movie makes you happy. Helping someone at work can bring a smile to your lips. These little things that happen every day have the potential to make you happy only if you pay enough attention to them.
But being successful does make people happy, one would argue. We tend to believe that we need to work hard and give up momentary happiness in the pursuit of some larger goal of never-ending happiness. While there are times when one needs to sacrifice temporary pleasures to achieve a larger goal, that is not always the case.
We believe success to be a cause of happiness. What if it is the other way around?
What if happiness is the real cause of success?
During their meta-analysis study, Sonja Lubormirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener reviewed 225 studies to explore the link between success and happiness. They found various studies which indicated that happiness is one of the causes of success.
When we talk about happiness, we usually mean the various positive emotions we experience like joy, excitement, etc. Studies show that when an individual feels these emotions, he/she is more likely to engage in behaviours that lead to success.
When a person is feeling good, he/she will interact more with people around and thus be good at networking. He/she is also more likely to come up with creative solutions to solve problems than someone who is not feeling positive emotions. These are the kind of behaviours that predict success in the workplace.
Explaining this, Sonja Lubomirsky says “this may be because happy people frequently experience positive moods and these positive moods prompt them to be more likely to work actively toward new goals and build new resources. When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic and others find them likeable and sociable.”
What does it mean to be happy?
Being happy does not mean that you constantly need to experience positive emotions. It means that you experience positive emotions more often than you experience negative emotions. We cannot escape negative emotions, they are natural. What we can do, is we can ensure we cope effectively with negative emotions and do little things that make us happy.
These findings are not surprising if you consider the fact that you cannot pour from an empty cup. In the same way, if you feel exhausted and stressed out at work, it is going to hamper your performance and your chances of being successful. On the other hand, if you are feeling energised and enthusiastic, chances are, you will perform better at work.