Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Happiness and Success: Which Brings Which?

In my recent post, I cited research that suggests that very high levels of happiness may not be conducive to achievement. The flip side of this coin is that people who are happy tend to benefit from their happiness in relationships and work.

A large review of literature finds that people who report a high degree of happiness tend to be more successful than those who report relatively low levels of happiness. This is because happy people tend to seek out fresh goals, which in turn provide new sources of satisfaction. According to the lead researcher:

"...happy people frequently experience positive moods and these positive moods prompt them to be more likely to work actively toward new goals and build new resources."

Happiness also is positively correlated with positive perceptions of self and others and effective coping skills. This sets up a positive mirroring in which others respond favorably to our own positive moods and behaviors, creating fulfilling interactions and reinforcing our own feelings about ourselves.

An interesting example of this can be found in airline terminals when flights are cancelled or delayed. I make it a special point to smile and empathize with the harried airline staff in such circumstances. Other people, brimming over with frustration, vent at the staff. I've consistently found that the airline personnel will go out of their way for me in ways that they don't for the people who vent. I suspect this happens in many facets of life, from job interviews to social gatherings: people respond best to those who come across positively.

We normally think of success as bringing happiness, but the research concludes that the line of causation goes the other way as well: happiness brings success. We can only speculate how the maintenance of a positive mindset may bring indirect benefits to trading, from heightened motivation to clearer decision-making. When we're happy, we become forward-looking; that, in turn, energizes goals and their achievement.