Happiness, Support, then Success?

It’s that time for personal goals for the new year.

If being happier and more successful is your motivation then it is worth considering the findings of Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development alongside those of Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.

Waldinger’s study based on 75 years of observing 724 men, ‘reveals’ that good relationships are the key to a happier, healthier and longer life.  His results are consistent with research that shows strong social support predicts longevity as reliably as regular exercise.

Such findings are hardly a revelation but remain something many of us will overlook too often. As Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage observes we tend to see happiness as the consequence of success – if achieved we quickly move the goal post again. We work hard then push “happiness over the cognitive horizon.”

Achor also highlights a strong link between higher levels of happiness and engagement in times of high stress to the amount of social support received and (more importantly) provided. 

“Social support appears to lead to not only happier employees but also more-satisfied clients.”

Achor and Waldinger in different ways make the case for focusing on happiness rather than success. Achor’s research in fact links achieving a happy outlook to greater resilience and productivity. In other words success follows your happiness.

Combining the learning from Waldinger and Achor vindicates committing to daily actions of social connection and support. Actions that fit this bill are not difficult or surprising. They include taking time out to recognise team or family success, sharing more activities with your partner, listening to a colleague’s issues, joining a gym class or just saying thank you more often.

Such actions, however, can immediately enhance your optimism and your chances of sustained happiness and success 🙂

An extract of Robert Waldinger’s TED talk and Shawn Achor’s HBR article can be accessed below:

Positive Intelligence by Shawn Achor

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