It goes without saying that, when you set a goal you hope for a certain result. For example, you try to get good grades in high school to make it into a good college. You work hard in college to get a degree that will lead you into a rewarding career. You scrimp and save to gather the cash for a down payment on your first house, and so on. Yet, happiness is different; for happiness as a goal is unattainable for most.
Why would I say this? It goes against everything we’re taught, so it must be wrong.
First, think about this… Being happy is a moral imperative, because being happy around others is a necessary ingredient of growing up and accumulating friends. Moody behavior won’t win many friends. Also, more happiness makes for a better world. After all, not many of the world’s dictators and tyrants are motivated by happiness.
In other words, your level of happiness has a profound effect on others and, while it’s not your job to ensure they are happy, being happy is the best choice for you AND them. Which brings us to happiness as a goal.
The Fallacy of Success Leading to Happiness
What happens when you don’t get those good grades in high school or college? Well, your choices for the next step, the good college or the good job, become severely limited. If you can’t save for the down payment, you won’t get that house. You can’t reach your goals.
The same is true of happiness. If you believe that getting into college or buying the house will make you happy, you’re in trouble. But that’s not the half of it.
In each case described above, reaching a goal meant achievement of another goal. Every success required new effort toward another success, and so on, and so on. When does the happiness from being successful kick in? In that scenario, it doesn’t, because you always have another goal to set and achieve, putting happiness “over the rainbow” and out of reach.
This illustrates the fallacy inherent in the idea that success leads to happiness. In fact, and recent research into positive thinking is proving this almost daily, the reverse is true. Happiness leads to increased success.
Happy people are more productive. Happy people feel less stress. Happy people have more of their brains available and use them more fully. Known as the “Happiness advantage”, when you are positive, your brain becomes more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.
Since happiness fuels success, seeking happiness as a goal is a non-starter. Rather, happiness is not only necessary to a good life, it’s also necessary for being successful.