Tag Archives: success

Which Comes First, Success Or Happiness?

Does success make you happy, or does happiness lead to success?

Success brings happinessMany believe that once they achieve some particular goal, then they will be happy. If they put their nose to the grindstone and work hard now, they will be successful, and therefore happier, at some distant time.

However, decades of research have shown that when we are happy – that is, our mindset and mood are positive – we are smarter, more motivated and thus more successful.

In other words, happiness brings success, not the other way around.

What Is Happiness, Anyway?

Of course, happiness means different things to different people. And only you can determine what makes you happy and how happy you are.

However, generally, happiness – or “subjective well-being” as scientists often call it – is experiencing positive emotions. It is pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.

Aristotle used the term eudaimonia, which translates not directly to “happiness” but to “human flourishing.”

By whatever name, the chief ingredient of happiness is positive emotions since happiness is, above all else, a feeling.

Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina, identifies these as the ten most common positive emotions . . .

  1. Joy
  2. Gratitude
  3. Serenity
  4. Interest
  5. Hope
  6. Pride
  7. Amusement
  8. Inspiration
  9. Awe
  10. Love

How Does Happiness Benefit You?

An analysis of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people found that happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity and work.

Maybe you are still thinking “of course people who are successful in these areas of their lives are happy. Who wouldn’t be.”

However, study after study shows that happiness precedes important outcomes and indicators of thriving. Happiness causes success and achievement, not the opposite.

Recent research shows that the positive effect of happiness is actually biological. Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but also dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels.

Research also shows that you don’t have to be stupefyingly happy to get the positive advantages. Even the smallest shots of positivity can give you a competitive edge.

Positive emotions broaden our intellectual and creative capacities and they counteract physical stress and anxiety.

How To Be Happier

Since positivity is such a good thing, you may be wondering if there are things you can do to increase yours.

If you are lucky, happiness comes naturally to you. Your genetically-determined “set point” of happiness may be higher than others.

But, even if you are not genetically predisposed to be happy, you can reap the benefits of positivity if you work hard enough at it.

If the following activities are performed habitually over time, each has been shown by research to help permanently raise our happiness baseline. (Of course, since happiness is subjective and not the same for everyone, we all have our own favorite happiness booster. And “person-activity fit” is often as important as the activity itself, so if some items on this list do not work for you, don’t force it.)

These are some proven ways to lift your spirits . . .

  • Exercise. As you probably know, exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins. Exercise also improves your motivation and feelings of mastery, reduces stress and anxiety and helps you get into “flow,” that locked in feeling of total engagement that we usually get when we’re at our most productive.

  • Spend money on experiences, not on stuff. Money can buy happiness, but only if used to do things as opposed to simply have things.

    While the positive feelings we get from material objects are frustratingly fleeting, spending money on experiences, especially with other people, produces positive emotions that are both more meaningful and longer lasting.

  • Find something to look forward to. Often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. One study showed that people who thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

    That’s one reason I maintain my travel bucket list.

  • Commit conscious acts of kindness. A long line of research demonstrates that acts of altruism – giving to friends and strangers alike – decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.

  • Infuse positivity into your surroundings. Our physical environment can have an enormous impact on our mindset and sense of well-being.

    So infuse your surroundings with positivity. Put pictures of loved ones or of treasured experiences in your work area, for example.

  • Meditate. Those who spend years meditating, such as monks, actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy.

    Short of that, daily meditating for as little as 5 minutes can bring feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy.

    Research shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress and even improve immune function.

  • Exercise a signature strength . Do things you are good at. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.

As you integrate these happiness practices into your daily life, you will start to feel better. But you’ll also start to notice how your enhanced positivity makes you more efficient, motivated and productive and how it opens up opportunities for greater achievement.

** This information is drawn from The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work which I highly recommend.

What Success Means To Me

Everyone wants “success,” but most of us don’t have a clear vision of what success means to us. We don’t have a personal definition of success.

Of course, each person’s definition of success will be different and our personal definitions of success will depend on our circumstances.

What Success Means To MeIn far-too-many parts of the world, success might consist of having drinkable water, sanitation facilities or an education.

For those of us fortunate to have these and other basics, our idea of success depends, ultimately, on what we value. We want more or better of what we think is important, be it related to health, wealth, relationships or something else.

So, to find my definition of what success means to me, I turned to my list of core values and then developed a definition of success that is congruent with those values.

I’m pretty sure our definitions of success change as we go through life. If I had been developing my definition of success earlier in life, I undoubtedly would have given greater consideration, at different stages, to having high school friends, excelling in sports, getting into college, getting laid, getting a good job, finding a spouse, accumulating professional accomplishments, being a great parent . . . You get the idea.

But, as of now, this is what I came up with . . .

What Is Success

For me, success is (1) taking persistent action (2) to achieve worthy goals (3) which add value to the world as well as benefit me.

To me, success is not just achieving a final goal. I feel successful if I persistently pursue my goals. That’s because I know that, over time, persistent action will usually lead to a successful conclusion.

For the mathematically inclined, here’s my equation: Consistent action + worthy, value-based goals = success.

”Soaring” And Other Thoughts On The Meaning Of Success

I have two more thoughts about what success means.

Instead of one definition of success, it is probably more helpful to have different definitions of success for different aspects of your life such as health, wealth, relationships and personal development. Or to have different success definitions for the different roles we play, such as family member, employer/employee, neighbor, citizen, team member, club member, etc.

Soaring!Finally, I offer my definition of what I’ll call Super Success. I feel super successful when I’m fearlessly living life as a daring adventure – outside my comfort zone, learning, doing, creating, achieving, leaving big footprints. The descriptive word that comes to mind is “soaring!” Those are the truly special times, and I try to create as many of them as possible.

How ‘bout you? What’s your definition of success?

Finding Your Personal Definition Of Success

What Is Your Personal Definition Of Success?The question was simple enough: What is my definition of success?

But I didn’t have a ready answer. I had to admit that I had never thought through my personal definition of success.

Sure, I had some ideas swirling around in my head, vague notions with scraps of details. But nothing organized or integrated.

At that moment, a quote I had heard years before flashed into my mind: “When you’re climbing the ladder of success, make sure it isn’t leaning against the wrong wall.” I was working hard toward goals but I hadn’t really thought enough about whether they were the right goals.

Embarrassed, I resolved at that moment that I would figure out what success means to me, personally.

Maybe you would like to join me in this exercise.

After all, most of us want to be “successful,” but how will we know if we are without a crystal clear idea of what success is for us?

Achieving success without knowing what it means to you is like trying to find a friend’s house when you don’t know the address. How will you know which way to go, and how will you know when you arrive?

Having challenged myself to thoughtfully answer the question, I had to figure out where to start.

Of course, research.

I began looking at what scholars, philosophers and other brainiacs have said on the subject of success. I believe in learning from the giants.

I had to be careful, though, because I wanted to learn from these smarties, not copy them. I couldn’t lose sight of the fact that my goal was to craft my personal definition of success.

This is the best of what I learned.

Definitions Of Success

Earl Nightingale, considered by many “the Dean of Personal Development,” has a simple, but insightful, definition of what success is: “The progressive realization of a worthy goal.”

American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said this:

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. . . Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”

This is another quote along the same line from an unknown author:

”Success is not about external things. Money, power and fame are results, byproducts that come from who you are. The true definition of success is: To Become the Person You Are Capable of Becoming.”

One of the most often-quoted definitions of success comes from 19th-century American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is where Waldo is on the subject of success:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

Here are some further thoughts from a modern day personal development expert, Canadian author Robin Sharma:

What’s the point of having success but failing at Significance? Yes, chase your dreams and rise to lofty heights in the world. But please remember: greatness comes from living for a cause larger than you. And leaving our world better than you found it.

Dave Kekich, author of Kekich’s Credos, has this simple but powerful definition: “You’re successful when you like who and what you are.”

Robert Allen Zimmerman (you know him as Bob Dylan) has chimed in on the subject too: “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”

More Definitions of Success

Here are some more personal definitions of success by some very smart, if not famous, modern business people . . .

What Is Your Personal Definition Of Success?

  • “Success to me means creating and maintaining balance in my life. It’s important to work hard and accomplish your goals, but it’s critical to remember to take care of yourself – exercise, eat well, spend time with friends, family, and loved ones. A balanced mind is a smart mind!” — Monique Peltz

  • “Success is more than just a number in my bank account; it is also measured by the smiles on my clients’ faces, having fun everyday being “kooky” and the difference I see myself making in the community around me.” – Angela McKeller

  • “Success is a an attitude and state of mind where I feel the exhilaration of knowing that I made a difference for many, did this doing what I love, and making a lot of money in the process so I get to experience many things in this extraordinary world. The most important part of success is a deep knowing that I made a difference for others.” – Nancy Fox

  • “To me, success means working toward my dreams. As long as I keep moving in the right direction I feel successful.” Cara Newman

  • “Success means leaving the world a little bit better because I was here.” – Mark Black

  • “Success is the freedom to live your life as the great big fat adventure it is – and the wisdom to understand that all you have to do is to choose to do so.” – John Jantsch

    Your Personal Definition Of Success

  • “If you measure success externally you will always be disappointed. There will always be people in front of you and in back of you. As a result, success has got to come from your subconscious. So, if you sleep well at night, you are successful.” – Jeffrey Taylor

  • “Success is in the eye of the beholder. What one person considers a success might be an abject failure to someone else. Success is defined by one’s expectations.” – Jason Zasky

  • “Success is being able to say, ‘I love what I do.’” – Brett Farmiloe

  • “The definition of success changes throughout life. When young, one’s perception of success may be as simple as being accepted by a group of friends. In adolescence success may mean being accepted to the college of your choice. As people venture into adulthood, they may define success as finding a partner to love and to spend life with or it may be to accumulate achievements and/or monetary gains. When you have children success often shifts or is split between your own success and being successful in raising children who are happy and successful in their own lives. As one grows older, success once again continually change often in the direction where what others think becomes less important than in previous years. You may spend time doing what you would never have expected to be doing as a child or switching to social causes. As one grows into old age, success will again continue to change based upon health, finances, family, friendships, culture, geography, etc. Success comes down to life’s experiences befitting who you are and where you are on your life’s time line.” – David Goldsmith
  • Conclusions

    As you see, the giants did not let me down. These quotes are full of brilliant insights.

    The next step in the process of developing my personal definition of success was thinking about this wisdom and integrating it with my own thoughts and experiences.

    In my next post, I will tell you what I came up with, what success means to me. Be ready to add your personal definition of success in the comment section.

    If At First You Don’t Succeed . . .

    (Humor is a great way to create and maintain a positive outlook. I hope this post gets a few smiles out of you.)

    Sure, you’re familiar with the quotation “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” which is attributed to William Edward Hickson, a 19th century British educational writer.

    An admirable sentiment about perseverance, no doubt.

    But are you familiar with these alternate ways to end a sentence that begins with “If at first you don’ t succeed . . .”

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.”
    • Arthur McAuliff

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.”
    • Quentin Crisp

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”
    • Author Unknown

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up. There’s no use in being a damn fool about it.”
    • W.C. Fields

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.”
    • Bill Lyon

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, give up.”
    • Homer Simpson

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average.”
    • Marion Hamilton Alderson

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, take the tax loss.”
    • Kirk Kirkpatrick

    • “If at first you don’t succeed, take a nap!”
      Vicki Sue

    And, on the other hand . . .

    • “If at first you do succeed – try to hide your astonishment.”
    • Author Unknown

    • “If at first you do succeed, try, try not to be insufferable.”
      Franklin P. Jones