Rebecca Morrison is a lawyer turned executive happiness coach and the author of the best-selling book The Happiness Recipe: A Powerful Guide to Living What Matters. She identifies three common myths surrounding work-related happiness.
Happiness or success – why not both?
Maybe you can relate to this. You’ve done all the things you thought you should – got the grades that led to the job that led to the recognition and achievement – but, somehow, you’re just not as happy or satisfied as you thought you’d be.
If you can relate, you should know that you are not alone. And chances are you’re falling victim to one of these common happiness myths.
Myth #1: Happiness is a side effect of success
Many of us believe that happiness will come as the result of our achievements. We think that when we check all the boxes – have the right job, the right number in our bank account or on the pay scale, the right certificates on our wall or the right title on our business, we will earn our happiness.
But the reality is that happiness is not a side effect of success, rather it is one of the highest value investments you can make in your success. Shawn Anchor said it best in The Happiness Advantage:
The greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.
In fact, happiness research has found that people who live happier (have more positive emotional experiences than tough ones) are healthier, live longer, have an easier time building and maintaining relationships, are more productive and even earn more money. In other words, it pays to be happy.
It is unrealistic to expect that you can be happy all the time. After all, human existence is complicated and messy. What is possible is being aware of the value of happiness – or positive emotional experiences more broadly – and being intentional in both creating and savouring positive emotional experiences in your life.
Myth #2: Our circumstances determine our happiness
Have you ever been in a situation and thought that if you could just change your circumstances (your job, your relationship status, your health, your wealth etc) you would be happier? It’s easy to fall into this trap because so much of what the world tells us supports the notion that our circumstances determine our happiness.
But the happiness research tells a different story: your circumstances are only responsible for ten per cent of your happiness. In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubormirksy explains that her research shows that that we can make the biggest impact on our happiness (40 er cent!) through our day-to-day actions and thoughts.
In other words, much more of your happiness is within your control than you might realise.
Practically speaking, this means that, rather than focusing on how you’re going to exit an unhappy circumstance, the real power is in focusing on how you can be as happy as possible where you are today using your actions and thoughts.
This doesn’t mean you need to pretend that everything is easy or positive. The simple reality is that where you put your focus grows, and if you – when you are able – focus on things that bring you positive emotional experiences, that’s a high-value investment in your happiness.
Myth #3: Happiness is complicated
Life is complicated, so happiness must also be complicated too, right? Wrong. You now know why happiness is worth your investment and that happiness starts with your actions and thoughts.
To start living happier you don’t have to flip your life upside down. In fact, little changes can have a big impact.
For example, if you were to record what made you smile every day for at least 21 days there is research that suggests that you would see a shift in your happiness, engagement, and gratitude. The happiness research even suggests that you’d be re-wiring your brain by engaging in this simple activity.
Success and happiness can co-exist when you understand that success starts with happiness. If you’re looking to build a happier life and career, begin by looking at how you can use your thoughts and behaviour to invite more positive emotional experiences into your day-to-day life.
From that happier place you can focus not on escaping your unhappiness but on building your happier life.
- Connect with Rebecca Morrison via LinkedIn