The Happiness Track

"…the way we are taught to seek success – and what is culturally supported and encouraged – is plain wrong."

- The Happiness Track, page 4

I bet you want to do a good job at work and enjoy what you do. You want to be successful and happy. Yet, achieving these two goals is more elusive than ever says Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track.

As a young intern working in a major newspaper in France she observed an interesting phenomenon. Her job was to run between the second floor, with the American writers and editors and the basement, with the blue-collar French press laborers. There was a striking difference in atmosphere. On the second floor you could feel the tension. It was quiet. Workers kept to themselves. They hunched over their keyboard and ate pizza at their desks. In the basement the mood was friendly and even festive with laughter and jokes. The workers enjoyed wine, cheese and bread together.

The two groups both achieved their goal – to get the newspaper out on time. But the one group was stressed, burned out and unhealthy looking; while the other group was happy, energetic and thriving!

That observation ignited a fascination in Emma to study the psychology of health and happiness. She discovered in study after study that what she and her friends were doing to achieve success and happiness was actually backfiring! She studied highly talented people with huge potential who sadly burned out their greatest asset: themselves.

She realized that most people are compromising their ability to be truly successful and happy by falling for outdated theories about success. In The Happiness Track, she shares decades of research that shows that happiness is not the outcome of success but rather the precursor.

She wrote this book to show us how our happiness can maximize our resilience, creativity, productivity, charisma and other skills critical for success. She shares skills to help us be productive without chronic stress and how to achieve more without burning out. In short, she shares ideas to help you maximize your professional potential and personal fulfillment. She outlines the false theories we must reject and replaces them with new strategies; a few of which I outline below.

It is Emma’s hope that this book provides you with relief that you already have what it takes to be happy and successful; that a stress-free and fulfilled life is not only possible but also the secret to personal and professional success.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The surprising key to success – happiness

"The research is clear: happiness is the fast-track to success."
- The Happiness Track, page 13

Do you ever feel guilty for doing something you enjoy instead of being productive? Stress levels in the United States are increasing at an alarming rate with 58% of Americans claiming that their stress is rising.

We seem to have it all backward. Seppälä shares a better way to reach your potential: seek happiness first. Positive emotions help you:

  1. Intellectually – learn faster.
  2. Psychologically – maintain your peace of mind more easily.
  3. Socially – make others more open and willing to cooperate.
  4. Physically – increase strength, cardiovascular health, improve coordination, sleep, immune function and reduce inflammation.

Does it sound good? Now let’s figure out how to achieve happiness.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Six outdated and false theories of success

"…we are compromising our ability to be truly successful and happy because we are falling for common but outdated theories about success."
- The Happiness Track, page 5

Emma shares empirically validated data demonstrating that the path to long-term success and well-being is often the opposite of what we’ve been taught. She draws on the latest findings from psychology, organizational behavior, and neuroscience to share six outdated and false theories of success as well as six strategies for attaining happiness and fulfillment to thrive professionally.

Do any of the following six false theories drive your current notions of success? I must admit many sound very familiar to me!

  1. Never stop accomplishing – Stay focused on getting things done and keep your eye on what’s next.
  2. You can’t have success without stress – Living in overdrive and suffering is inevitable if you want success.
  3. Persevere at all costs – Work to exhaustion and focus all energy on the task while resisting temptations or distractions.
  4. Focus on your niche – Become an expert in your niche by focusing exclusively on your one area.
  5. Play to your strengths – Do what you do best and stay clear from your weak areas.
  6. Look out for number one – By staying focused on your own interests, you will outperform others.

Now that we know what we don’t want, let’s look at what we should replace them with.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Six keys to happiness and success

"…we are terrible at predicting what will or will not make us happy"
- The Happiness Track, page 22

These six strategies will help you be happier and live a life of purpose and enhance your success! They are not complicated nor do they require complex training or lifestyle changes.

  1. Live (or work) in the moment – You are happier when you are 100% consumed in one activity but adults spend only 50% of their time in the present moment.
  2. Tap into your resilience – Train yourself to bounce back from setbacks.
  3. Manage your energy – Discipline your mind so you don’t indulge in exhausting thoughts and emotions.
  4. Do nothing – Idleness, fun and seemingly irrelevant interests contribute to your creativity and innovation.
  5. Be good to yourself – Treat yourself as you would your best friend and be compassionate. Realize your brain is meant to grow and learn from mistakes.
  6. Show compassion to others – Look outward and express compassion and interest in others.

Let’s dive into just one of the strategies above. In strategy number one, she describes how being fully present contributes to your charisma. Charisma, she says, helps you have good relationships and good relationships are one of the biggest predictors of success and happiness. Think of someone who you consider charismatic. Do they have the following six characteristics?

  1. Empathy
  2. Good listening skills
  3. Eye contact
  4. Enthusiasm
  5. Self-confidence
  6. Skillful speaking

How can you be more fully present to help you achieve the skills above? One little thing I did was consciously put down my phone when with my children. I’m even, gasp, leaving it in another room. Baby steps, I know!  What baby step will you take to apply just one of her six strategies to achieve greater happiness?

So if you are a productivity junkie like me and think it is setting you up for success, take note. Working on achieving happiness is the most productive thing you can do. It helps you thrive both at work and at home. Once we turn around our belief and realize that happiness is not the result but rather the precursor to success, we will achieve that fulfilling, successful and anxiety-free life we so desire. Bottom line; Pharrell Williams has it right… “It might be crazy what I’m about to say but happiness is the truth!”

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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