Does Success lead to Happiness or Happiness lead to Success? This sounds like a chicken or egg question. When I ask this question during Mindful Leadership sessions, I get both kinds of responses.
Of course, the definition of success and happiness vary from person to person. But in general, we consider Success means rich & famous, having wealth & status. And Happiness means having fun and enjoying life.
Let me ask some more questions to get to the bottom of this question. When are we most effective in whatever we are doing? – is it when we are upset, angry, depressed, …. or when we are happy, joyful? We are most effective when we are in a positive emotion than negative emotion, isn’t it? And when we are effective in whatever we are doing, we become more successful in that. That means happiness is a prerequisite for success. Of course, when success comes, it adds to the happiness.
This sounds like common sense. But, do we live that way? We are constantly chasing success – getting something – money, material, relationship, status, … thinking that if we get that we’ll be happy. Once we get that, the happiness from that is transient; we start looking at getting the next thing. So, we make happiness conditional – if-then-else loop.
I ask the participants to draw their happiness graph for a month or a year and ask them to reflect. Most of the time it’s low and once in a while a spike when they get ‘something’. Then I ask them to reflect on young children and draw their happiness graph. It’s the inverse of that of adults’ graph – most of the time they are joyful and once in a while low when something happens. For adults something has to happen to become happy, for children something has to happen to become unhappy.
Adults were children once upon a time; but then what changed? For this, most participants respond that children don’t have any responsibilities and goals/targets and so on. Actually that’s not the reason. It’s because children are in the present moment most of the time, whereas adults are hardly in the present moment – 90% of the time their thoughts will be either of the past (worry, analysis-paralysis, …) or of the future (planning, fear, ‘what-if’ thoughts …). Adults struggle and take a long time to come out of negative emotions, whereas children bounce back very quickly and start running & playing – their mean-time-to-recovery (MTTR) is very short.
We understood that we are more effective when we are in a state of positive emotions. So, if we have to deal with larger responsibilities and higher goals, we should keep our mind more in a state of pleasantness, isn’t it? That means if we have bigger problems, we should be happier – not because of the problems, but to deal with the problems more effectively.
But how to be happy all the time? – by being in the present moment. How to be in the present moment? – Mindfulness practices have been found very effective in keeping the mind calm, pleasant, less stressed, less reactive and in the present moment.
Another significant impact of Mindfulness practice is it’s transformational impact on the brain, nervous system, endocrine system and hormones which impact our moods, emotions, thinking & feelings. There are umpteen number of neuroscience researches which have demonstrated this impact. For example, Mindfulness practices increase neurotransmitters like Dopamine (anti-depressant) and Oxytocin (happiness hormone) which help us to be in a pleasant and positive state of mind.
This means happiness is a chemistry and we can manufacture it within us unconditionally. At times of adversity, we need an even more balanced and positive state of mind. We can create such conditions by Mindfulness practices.
If we observe, everybody is seeking happiness – they are doing whatever they are doing, to be happy. People gravitate towards and want to be associated with happy people, not people with negative emotions & attitudes. We not only can manufacture happiness within us, but also can export it to others – happiness is highly contagious. When we create value to others, we become successful.
So, BE Happy and Become Successful.
Stay tuned for more in the Mindful Leadership series.
You can download a free eBook on Mindfulness@Work here.
You can practice audio/video guided Mindfulness techniques here.
You can get more info on Mindful Leadership here.
If you are curious & adventurous and want to explore & experiment deeper, watch the following videos in that order: