Whether you are a millennial or a baby boomer, you probably grew up being taught that you have to be externally well-off (aka successful) in order to be internally well-off (aka happy).
We set goals and believed that each time we accomplished a goal, we would finally be happy.
If this is true, “With each victory, our goalposts of success keep getting pushed further and further out, so that happiness gets pushed over the horizon” (Shawn Achor).
No wonder burnout for millennials is over 50%, and only 45% of workers surveyed were happy at their jobs.
We just can’t get an internal win, because we believe this illusion of success will give us happiness.
But what if we have the formula all wrong?
Historically, most research done in the field of psychology has been about studying what is average or how to take what is below-average and make it average again. As late as 1998, the ratio of negative to positive studies in psychology was 17 to 1. Until very recently we knew a lot about how to be miserable and very little about how to actually thrive and live fully alive.
“If we study merely what is average, we will remain merely average.” – Shawn Achor
So it’s no wonder that we believed that success is going to lead to happiness, because we saw successful people being happy, and had no evidence to believe that it was actually happy people who were successful.
We have finally stopped studying the average and started looking at this wonderful thing called positive psychology.
Today, “data abounds showing that happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They also enjoy more job security and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to become burned out. Happy CEOs are more likely to lead teams of employees who are both happy and healthy, and who find their work climate conducive to high performance. The list of the benefits of happiness in the workplace goes on and on” (Shawn Achor).
Now this is really good news if you’re already a naturally happy person, but for the rest of us, what does this mean?
Are the less-than-happy people of the world just screwed now when it comes to success?
I remember sitting in my foreign language classes, and my teacher told us we have to pick up new languages before we turn 25, because it’s harder to change and rewire your brain after 25.
That’s really bad news considering I’m 25 and have yet to even fully master the English language, much less Spanish and Italian and Swahili and all the other languages of the world.
I got some good news for you: we now know that neuroplasticity the idea that the brain is malleable and can therefore change throughout the course of our lives) extends well past the age of 25.
What does this mean?
You can learn to increase your level of happiness no matter how old you are! Wahoo!!!
PLUS, once you do that, you’ll be more successful in every arena of life.
So how do you be happier?
We’ll talk about that next in the next blog post.