Shawn Achor’s happiness advantage.

One malady that afflicts most young professionals is the idea that if and when they “succeed,” they will be happy.

This is an illusion! When we “succeed,” the very act raises the bar for how we define success. The result? We never get there. Get good grades? You need to get better grades. Admitted to a good college? You should strive to get into a better graduate school. Got a good job? You need to work toward that even better one. And so on.

Don’t take my word for it; the idea (down to those particular examples above) certainly isn’t original with me.

Psychologist Shawn Achor, for one, tells us that we have the idea backward. Success doesn’t lead to happiness. Instead, it’s happiness that fosters success. He argues this in a compelling TED video. It’s three years old now, but I saw it for the first time about three weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been promoting it to everyone I know, and have yet to find the first person who’d already seen it and knew all about it.

So here’s the link, provided for your remedial viewing:

The video is twelve minutes long. The first ten minutes are all humor, but bring you towards the point, which takes up the final two minutes. Mr. Achor actually offers a solution for achieving the happiness you’ll need to be a success at whatever you do.

Some of you will find the message merely affirming… you’ve been doing the right things or something close to them all along. Others may find something new. Whatever your circumstance, you’ll get the Bill-Hooke guarantee; it won’t be the poorest use you’ve made of twelve minutes of your professional life.


A postscript. Regardless of field of specialty, there’s not the professional or knowledge worker alive who couldn’t benefit from Mr. Achor’s TED talk. However, from the standpoint of this blog there is one special audience… those engaged in one or another aspect of the special business of real-world living: developing food, water, energy and other resources; building community-level resilience to extremes; and protecting habitat, biodiversity and environmental quality. This community is currently populated by professionals who aren’t that sanguine about the world’s future prospects. However, as discussed in the previous post, reasons for reality-based hope (as opposed to delusion) are there to be seen. And all seven billion of us need that community above all others to benefit from, and put to work, the happiness advantage.

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