We've Had It All Wrong

There was a time when we believed that the sun revolved around the earth. But then this guy called Copernicus came along and told us it was actually the opposite -- the earth revolved around the sun.

I'm not sure how long it took for folk to buy into this new way of thinking about the solar system, but it must have taken quite a paradigm shift to change this belief. But it did eventually happen.

For my entire life, I've believed that in order to live a happy life, I would first have to get clear on what I wanted in life -- the house, car, relationship, money, success -- and then work my butt off to make it happen. Hard work, endurance, and living for the promise of what the future held for me were the pre-requisites of achieving a happy life. When I get what I want, then I'll be happy.

But it's only within the last few years that I've realized that I've (we've) had it all backwards.

Getting happy FIRST is the way it actually works. I wish someone had of told me about the order: Happiness first, then Success second.

But don't just take my word for it. There's a decade of groundbreaking research in neuroscience and positive psychology to prove that happiness is actually the precursor to success. Shaun Achor's book, The Happiness Advantage, which does a brilliant job of explaining this research, suggests that when we deliberately practice states of happiness, we gain huge leverage in allowing life to give us all the stuff we think will make us happy and successful.

If only I had known that states of happiness actually fuel our ability to create, troubleshoot, perform, and attract opportunities that guarantee success.

It would explain why, despite my hard work, I experienced years, indeed, decades of feeing stuck, lost job opportunities, never enough money, and being trapped in a life that just wouldn't flow. Because for all of those years, there was one common thread that weaved through every aspect of my life: The feeling of unhappiness, and the belief that true happiness was over there somewhere in the future, and all I had to do was to keep following the carrot that was dangling in front of me.

Don't get me wrong. I love dreaming and scheming about what I want for my future. Nothing wrong with having a goal that excites you. But, it used to be that my present life would always play second fiddle to what my future life promised. I had no time to be happy. I was too busy striving to make my life work.

Right this minute, we're living our lives. Some of us are enduring boring jobs that deaden our spirit; some are tolerating relationships that are all wrong for us; and others are wondering how to get out of debt. And so you might be saying: How the heck do you expect me to feel happy?

Finding a way to feel happy in the present moment of our unhappiness seems counter-intuitive, improbable, and impractical. We recoil from wanting to feel happy in the same way we recoil from having a root canal. We tell ourselves that we have too much on our plate to deal with. But the research is clear and emphatic that your ability to train your brain to find ways to feel happy -- especially when you are going through a rough time -- is the very path that will get you out of your mess.

Changing the way you think about what will bring and cause your future happiness is as big a paradigm shift as it was for the folk back in Copernicus's time. We've been taught the opposite from three very powerful forces: our parents, teachers, and society. So, we shouldn't be surprised when we find ourselves wanting to cling to the old belief that success only comes to us with toil, hard work, and endurance. We've even bought into the notion that feeling happy now is irresponsible and silly. But, the research is finally telling us that we've been misguided. We've had it all wrong.

Don't buy into this false belief. Give yourself the competitive edge. Train your brain to look for the positive.

Success revolves around happiness.