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Happiness: Before or after success?

I recently sold my first book.  I was elated.  I still am. I was before.  Selling a book didn’t make me happy—it increased my happiness factor.  You see, I wake up with the need to be positive.  I’ve read The Secret, and there’s a lot to be said for positive affirmations, visualizing our hopes and dreams and casting them out to the universe.  But if you’re miserable before, during and after, will obtaining The Secret change anything for the better? Maybe you’ll be richer, more successful, but will you be any happier?

Think about it.  How many of us have said:   If I could lose five pounds, I’d be happy?  If I work harder, it’ll lead to a promotion and then I’ll be happy?  When I finish this manuscript, it’ll lead to a publishing career, and then I’ll be happy?

My point?  Happiness needs to come before your success.

I attend Toastmasters.  I belong to a great group in Colorado Springs, and one of our speakers gave a speech on Happiness.  In it, she referenced psychologist Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.  Achor, an expert on human potential, claims that happiness is an advantage and the precursor to greater success.

He states that every single relationship, business and educational outcome improves when the brain is positive first.  He further writes, it’s hard to find happiness after success if the goalposts of success keep changing. 

Anyone think he was talking about publishing after reading those statements?  Probably not directly, but I had some real aha moments after reading this book.

In The Happiness Advantage, Achor defines rational optimism as a “realistic assessment of the present, while maintaining a belief that our behavior will eventually create a better reality.”

Here’s a link to an interesting Youtube video featuring Shawn Achor during one of his talks at Harvard.  http://www.bing.com/search?q=Youtube+and+Shawn+Achor&form=LENMHP&pc=LEN2&x=78&y=19

We are inundated daily with negatives in this world.  Worse, if you’re pursuing a publishing career, prepare for decisions to be slow to nonexistent, for rejection to be commonplace, and for some to view you as a competitor instead of a colleague.  If you’re miserable when you enter this field, you’re in for a terrible, heartbreaking road.  Happiness will be your cushion for the myriad disappointments you are bound to encounter.

Achor says our society’s formula for success and happiness is broken.  The happy news is it’s reversible.

I think Achor is on to something.  What do you think?

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38 Responses

  1. Speaking as the eternal Pollyanna – I love this post. I live in Southern California, and every day, I see people who have amassed far more than a person should have, kids spoiled by excess, and the crazy society that results from it. It’s not pretty. I just want to stop the time-crazed Soccer Mom that cuts in line in front of me at the mall, and ask remind her – the goal isn’t the ‘stuff.’ it’s happiness! Given the right state of mind (and enough food) you can be happy and homeless – I was once. It’s all in your perspectve Thanks for the thoughful post.

    • Oh, Laura, you nailed it. Adding to your coffers doesn’t make you happy. Happiness comes from within. Nice to see you here, Eternal Pollyanna.

  2. Love this post! We’re of like minds. I believe that a positive attitude is the key to happiness. Life hands us all kinds of experiences–some good, some bad. But we take it all and move through it and learn the lesson provided by it. We become wiser, tougher, and happier. {Everybody sing: The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow ther’ll be sun …}

    • Pamela, singing along with you. We had a major hail storm last night. Beat up my flowers and roses, but we so need the water. It’s goomy today, but I know it won’t last. I’d rather think positive than be labeled Eyore 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  3. Hear, hear. If you try hard enough, you can always find something to make you miserable. Why shouldn’t happiness work the same way?

    • Bingo. 🙂 Personally, I think looking on the bright side is healthier. Thanks, Kari Lynn!

  4. Great post, Donnell! Publishing is a hard business and I do think it helps a lot to be positive.

    • Gosh, Eve, I think there should be a warning label on Publishing. Do not attempt if you can’t deal with rejection 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  5. such a good post! Love that…that getting your dream makes you happier. it’s not what makes you happy.

  6. Great information. My favorit book on happiness is called Happiness is a Serious Problem by Dennis Prager. Things don’t make us happy, our outlooks do. We can actually make ourselves more content with behavior modification. Being grateful for what we HAVE and not focusing on what we DON’T HAVE, is key.

    To me, any day I get out of bed and all parts are working, is a good day. And one day, when not all of those parts are working, I’ll still be grateful to be alive.

    Joy is fleeting, but contentment which leads to true happiness can be increased by our good attitudes.

    • What a wise woman, Lynne Marshall. Wow, so true. There’s something to the statement if you’ve got your health you have everything. What a blessing and something to smile about. Thanks for dropping by!

  7. Years ago I had a near death experience (NDE) following an emergency surgery. I came awake with ta profound realization that we can simply decide to be happy and it will come to pass. So I made the decision right then that no matter what happened I would always be happy. During that NDE, I also learned that happiness and joy are two different experiences: Happiness is a human emotion. We don’t share happiness. It is something we feel and experience within ourselves. Joy is what we share (which can create happiness in others). Joy is a never ending wellspring that bubbles up from our spirits and flows out to others, and into the next moment. Ironically, the key to bringing happiness into my life was sharing my joy with others. I’m grateful for my NDE. I think the angels spoke to me that night. I love writing. It makes me happy to let the words flow. I think getting published will add to my happiness, but not getting published wouldn’t lessen it. Happiness is mine. I cherish it and won’t allow it to leave my life. Great post. Thanks.

    • Your post gave me chills, Kathleen. Happy chills. Who would have ever thought a near death experience could be so uplifting. Very inspirational post. Something tells me your happiness will contribute to you becoming published. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Amen, sister! I’m so into the gratitude attitude. Selling a book didn’t make me happy. I was already there. Winning the lotto won’t make me happy either, but I’d welcome the opportunity to test that theory. LOL

    Good post!

    • Ha! Amen back atcha. Cheryl, my husband buys a lottery ticket twice a week. Personally, I find the though of winning scary. I truly don’t think it would make me happy. Now, my husband? :)))))) I love your gratitude attitude, but ya know, I’ve always seen that about you. Hugs.

  9. I learned a long time ago that happiness comes from within. Too many people change jobs, geographical locations, even spouses chasing it, but still it eludes them. If they’d only look to themselves. Everything else is gravy.

    And although finding out that a publisher loved my story and wanted to buy it is right up there with the happy times in my life, it isn’t the end-all,be all.

    I posted a cartoon on Facebook the other day that said money can’t buy happiness, but is is a whole lot easier to cry in a Corvette than on a bicycle. The same goes for a ——-insert word here—whatever it is that you think will make you happy may bring a smile to your face, but you have to look deeper to keep it there.

    • Liz, exactly. Happiness comes from within. My neighbor and I had an interesting conversation. We compared spouses one day and decided to stick with the ones that we had. 🙂 It’s so simple really. If you’re not happy in the first place, what makes you think acquiring something will make a difference. You are such a wise woman.

  10. Love this post, Donnell! Have long believed that happiness is a choice we make and you’ve said it so well here. Off to check out the Shawn Achor video. 🙂

  11. I love this, and I feel like it couldn’t be more true. It’s so important to be able to enjoy the moment you’re in and be happy with where you are. I often feel like the luckiest person in the world and I hope I always feel that way, regardless of how the cards fall.

    • Yep, I totally agree. I can decide to be in a bad mood or decide to yank my way out of it. I loved Mr. Achor’s video. Thanks, Sparkle Abbey!

      • Vivi, I had a dear friend with MS, she was missing a kidney and she had to have dialysis two times a week. She journaled and always had this amazing disposition. I asked her, how do you do it — you’re terminal. She said we’re all terminal. Just had the most amazing outlook. I miss her.

  12. I love this post!
    I believe that some of us are wired to happy and can deflect the negatives thrown our way.
    Sometimes fate intervenes which we do not seem to have any control or knowledge of how it affects us.
    I think that being prepared when we succeed can be the impetus to happiness. Gratitude and then fortitude to push ahead to futher our dreams can go a long way in achieving our goals.
    The world love heroes so taking the high road to success inspires us all..

    • Marie, I agree. I think we can be wired to have a more negative mindset. What’s interesting is to see if we can be rewired and if it will have a positive influence. Thank you for being here!

  13. This kind of stuff makes my head hurt. LOL I got the overall message of your post (and I agree with it!) but the references to Achor’s words just kind of bounced off my brain.

    I don’t know if it’s because analysis and intent make things both too simple and too complex, or if it’s because I’m just kind of dumb. 🙂

    I have a ton of things in my life that make me happy. I started listing some but the comment got too long. 🙂 But even some of the things that make me happy could be better, or more. I think it’s possible to be happy and still strive for more. (I might be reading an implication that’s not really there: that if you want more or think something you don’t have will make you happy, you’re wrong. I think happiness is more multifaceted than that, but he might agree.)

  14. Natalie, not everyone will get what he’s trying to say. Just like writing, this is my subjective opinion, although I think he makes a ton of sense. I’m also not saying I don’t want the brass ring, or that I’m not working toward being more successful. I’m just not going to fall apart and make those around me miserable around me if it doesn’t happen.

    I agree with you. we should definitely try to strive for more. This is part of the human condition. Without growth, we become stagnant. That’s no way to live in my opinion. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • I don’t mean to sound negative on a post about being positive! LOL

      I think my issue is that I don’t like anyone telling me that I’m not allowed to be happy with material/external things. Going to see the Avengers, buying a new book, eating popcorn with butter and salt all make me very happy.

      But I looked back at your post and realized that was more of a reaction to the comments, which were an extrapolation of your original point. Achor’s definition of rational optimism is pretty much what I feel.

      I think I also reacted too strongly to the last part of your post, where you said Achor thinks society’s formula is broken. I have a deep-seated hatred of generalizations like that. 🙂

  15. Thank you for a wonderful post. The Secret is one of my favorites too, and I am going to dig it out again. Because what I write is, at its heart, romance, if I am not happy then I am not writing happily ever after. I have known for a long time that I am responsible for making me happy and making me sad, and to not own that gives away my core – my self esteem. Thanks again for reminding me to own my life.

  16. Terri, my pleasure. Just an attitude adjustment has made a difference in my life. I love your last line. Absolutely. You own your own life. We all do. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Man, did I need to hear this. I’m in the middle of a small crisis with my kids, an unintentional crisis born from parents who didn’t have much growing up, have a little now, and forget it’s not good to give their children everything they ask for. Yep. It’s me and my husband, and we’re starting to see the writing on the wall. Not that my kids are rotten, but they’re a little too spoiled. When stuff comes easy, you don’t appreciate it. And our kids are going through a bad stage of wanting everything their friends have….and it doesn’t help I’m surrounded by parents that give, give, and give as a means of winning their children’s love and favor. So the hubbie and I have had a talk about setting limits for ourselves on what we’ll do for the kiddos. And we’ve institued summer chores and an allowance system so they can earn their own money and buy their own stuff.

    Fingers crossed we can rein ourselves and our kids in.

  18. Liz, wow, I lived through those days, too. I’m no psychologist, but I do know that at times when I think I want something so badly and then I get it, I realize I could have lived without it. What peer pressure our kids go through. As a parent of two kids now grown, I know that if they have to work for something, they appreciate and respect it much more. Good luck. I know your kids are in super hands, and I very much doubt knowing you that your kids are spoiled. I’ll wager, too that they are happy!

  19. Wonderful topic, Donnell! Sharing our joy and happiness through our stories is another way to spread a positive attitude. Everyone gets caught up in life struggles, but a good story can shift your mood in seconds. Marketing today works to shift our focus. I feel everyone needs to slow down and reassess where they are periodically. Happiness is a choice.

    • Love this, Jean, thank you. Yes, very much so. Even when life is spiraling downward, we have a choice. Let it drag us all the way down, or do our best to deal and move forward.

  20. Great post, Donnell! I definitely think we make our own happiness. I’ve always been a little bit Pollyanna, if you will, and I’ve had moments of unadulterated satisfaction -like when I signed my fist contract. I give myself time to celebrate those moments and accomplishments, and then I’m off making new plans…

    • Excellent, Kristina, Setting goals and being happy while you do it. Well done. Thanks for commenting!

  21. Thank you for the post Donnell. I love writing but we all know there are so many disappointments and some days it’s harder than others to stay positive. It’s so important that we support each other with great posts like this one so that we are all reminded of the great things in our lives and of the joy and satisfaction we get from what we do. Having people around who understand the emotional highs and lows of our business (supportive friends, family and colleagues like you) is necessary to that sustaining that happiness. Have you blogged about emotional support and encouragement?

  22. Trisza, I’m so excited you stopped by. You’re an inspiration to me, and by your success and your inspiring speech at RWA National, you u are a living, breathing, talented example that happiness is a choice. You know, I have never blogged about emotioanl support and encouragement, I try to live it. That makes me happy. Giving support to others around me, as do you, I am lifted up. It’s so much easier, healther, happier to lift someone up than to put someone down. I just won’t do it. Thank you for stopping by today and sharing!

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