A recent Harvard study http://bit.ly/pxylJk concluded that happiness is the single greatest competitive advantage in the 21st century. They suggest that if you are happy first, success will follow. In other words, success does not make you happy but happiness makes you successful.
But do we really know what makes us happy?
Many of us spend most of our lives developing and valuing our first class education, our high powered career and our ability to collect material things. As a society this has become how we measure and define success. But do these achievements really make us happy? Everyone knows people who are brilliant yet unhappy or financially successful and unhappy. I know from my own life that a first class education, owning a business and acquiring loads of material things did not bring me the fulfillment and joy I thought they would.
The same Harvard study estimated that having a good education and great technical skills contribute only 25% of our success at work and in life. To be successful in work and life, there are other character traits that we must possess. So what are these traits? They include optimism, emotional resilience, empathy, the ability to make social connections and viewing stress as a challenge instead of as a threat. The study calls these traits the “silent 75%.” The “silent 75%.” are generally viewed as ‘soft skills’ and their long term importance to our happiness is routinely undervalued.
The study, however, concludes that long-term success at work and in life “is based upon our ability to positively adapt to the world”; to be happy, joyful and optimistic, since we are more likely to achieve our full potential when we are feeling positive. As a culture we need to focus on these ‘soft skills’- the silent 75% – and all of us should seek to build and strengthen these traits within us in order to be more joyful human beings. To be truly happy and therefore successful requires the right balance between our rational and emotional skills.
Despite achieving in my education and career I had a realization that I simply wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be. My joy was limited despite the material abundance around me and my successes didn’t fulfill me the way I had expected. I began to make a very conscious effort to focus on doing things that fed my spirit. I decided to focus on the things that brought me more happiness and joy – like making sure I had dinner with a friend at least once a week, connecting daily with family members by phone or in person and doing work that was meaningful and engaging.
I believe that happiness is found deep within, that it comes from our soul and not from external things. So take a peek inside and find your joy. The journey of self-discovery can be very personal and private and each person has to determine what truly makes them happy. But take comfort in knowing that this is important and essential work to ‘get to happy.’
Below are eleven happiness boosters outlined by Shawn Achor, the author of “The Happiness Advantage.” Try them out and see how you feel:
2. Open doors
3. Offer a seat at your table in a busy cafe
4. Make eye contact
5. Start a conversation with someone who looks lonely
7. Have deep meaningful conversations
8. Give money to people in need without conditions attached
9. Try and put a positive spin on a bad situation
10. Meditate so you are calmer for your family, friends and at work
11. Volunteer for someone who really needs it
I know many of these have worked for me! Which of these work best for you?
Original post written for Joy Campaign August 2011.