Happiness: The Key To Success
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Albert Schweitzer has been quoted as saying, "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."
He has good backup from the literature in positive psychology. One excellent study is "The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?" by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King and Ed Diener.
They found that positive feelings evoke behaviors and characteristics that are strongly associated with success.
For example, if you are in a positive mood you are likely to feel more optimistic, more confident, empowered and in control. So, it follows that you are more inclined to take the kinds of social and work-related risks that lead to success.
Furthermore, if you are feeling cheerful, energized and confident, you are more likable and you enjoy interacting with others more readily. Social interaction engenders mutual help and support, which leads to greater opportunities for success.
Of course, the more that your activities lead to success, the more energy you feel and the more you want to be active and engaged in your work and social life. So, a kind of loop of positive feelings = success = positive feelings builds.
Another benefit of the positive feelings/success cycle is that it produces better health. That is, feelings of psychological well-being promote physical well-being. Yes, just like depression can lead to physical illness, happiness can lead to better health.
So, when you're feeling well and happy, you tend to get more involved with people and projects. You work well as a member of a team, maybe as a team leader. Good teams work hard to develop solutions to challenges, so they have to be creative and flexible. You, therefore, become more creative and flexible and better able to meet greater and greater challenges.
As you go through the various cycles of positive mood/success, you also acquire a number of skills from the work you do at the time. Those skills become a part of your resources for greater success, and you can also invoke those skills in down times to rekindle success activities that lead to better feelings.
The chicken-and-the-egg problem (which came first?) arises whenever you think about cycles like this. Where did the good mood or positive feelings come from in the first place? Didn't you have to have some sort of success to create the positive feelings that create the next success? There are various proposed answers to that, some of which are simple and some of which are long and complex. My brief answer is that it doesn't matter. Something you read may start a good feeling. Someone may pay you a compliment. You might be inspired by a movie. You might just force yourself to do something positive despite feeling depressed. Who knows. Just be ready to seize that positive mood and go from there to success.
This reminds me of the "Fly Lady," http://flylady.net/index.asp, that one of my sisters is constantly recommending to friends and family. The website and related books are designed for women who want to become more organized and effective in their homes. Women who want to feel good about their homes and themselves. The Fly Lady's system is based on very sound psychology.
She knows that tiny, almost symbolic success leads to feeling better about yourself, which leads to greater successes. She makes job #1 the cleaning and shining of the kitchen sink -- every single day. In her philosophy, a clean kitchen sink leads to a positive feeling about keeping neat and clean and eventually results in a clean house.
Sounds like she's been reading positive psychology studies too.