What is the secret to success? Most people would say hard work, ambition, focus, and perhaps a willingness to make sacrifices. In our current reality, stress is often seen as a necessary evil to achieving success. Happiness is viewed as the reward for reaching our goals, something that will happen to us in the future. We value dedication and drive, and often view leaders as those who are the most productive, constantly planning and working towards their goals and careers. In her book The Happiness Track, Emma Seppala works to dispel these myths and argues instead that happiness is the key to leading a successful life. Through a mix of psychological research, compelling examples, and anecdotes, Seppala outlines how we can achieve happiness through living in the present, making time to rest, and practicing kindness in order to achieve our goals. She argues convincingly that happiness does not have to be viewed as the end result of hard work, but rather as the tool and mindset that will help us reach our goals and be the most successful we can be.
“We have this misconception that in order to be successful, we have to postpone or sacrifice our happiness now.”
Emma Seppala’s research helped her to identify six truths about being happy and successful:
1. Live in the moment.
We need to be focused on the present to be more productive and charismatic.
2. Be resilient.
It’s important to train ourselves to be more resilient to the setbacks in our lives. Resilient people are able to recover faster when they use positive emotions to respond to stressful experiences.
3. Keep calm (and carry on).
When you’re constantly in overdrive, it can lead to burnout, which as many as half of American workers experience. If you take time to be calm, it can help you manage your energy.
4. Do more of nothing.
Research suggests that we’re at our mental best when we’re not especially alert or focused. So if we want to be creative, we need to give ourselves more time off.
5. Be good to yourself.
A fear of failure can lead to poor decisions, making it harder to pursue the careers we want. We need to be kind to ourselves, remember that everyone makes mistakes, and observe our negative thoughts from a distance without letting ourselves really dwell on them.
6. Be compassionate to others.
People who have good relationships with their bosses, colleagues and employees are more likely to inspire loyalty, which in turn makes everyone more productive.
Seppala acknowledges that her viewpoint might be considered “soft” because it advocates for happiness and rest, which is not in line with our current view of success. Some close-minded leaders might dismiss her findings, but this attitude may be detrimental to their individual wellbeing and the organizations they work for. By being present, ensuring restorative breaks and practicing kindness towards ourselves and others, we can increase our happiness and become more successful individuals and leaders.