6 definite ways to achieve happiness and success in life
We all wish for happiness and success – for ourselves as parents, and for our children through their childhood and in their adult years too.
Sometimes unfortunately, both these things evade us. How can we ensure we get a good dose of both happiness and success?
Psychologist Emma Seppala, science director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, has the answer.
She explains in her new book "The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success" that being successful and being happy are not mutually exclusive", and that this is something all of us can learn to achieve.
If we, as parents, can learn how to be happy and successful at the same time, then it’s a given that our children are bound to learn this too – after all, we are their biggest role models.
So, according to Seppala, here are six things you can incorporate in your life, which are key to being happy and successful.
1. Be good to yourself
We often stick to our strengths, which are the things we are mostly good at, while avoiding things we are not so good at doing. This is usually done out of the fear of failure.
However, research suggests that being scared of failure can actually make you more likely to give up, without pushing through even if you make mistakes. After all, making mistakes is one really good way of avoiding them in the future, right?
Seppala suggests that instead of being harsh on yourself, you should be kind to yourself, remembering that everyone makes mistakes. She also advises that you observe your negative thoughts from a distance without dwelling on them for too long.
2. Be compassionate
It’s easy to assume that we should be looking out for ourselves before anyone else – and yes, there are instances when doing this is important, especially when it comes to family and children.
But by not nurturing compassion for others, both in ourselves and our children, we’re teaching ourselves (and our kids) to be selfish. And this can stand in the way of success.
Seppala says that if you nurture compassionate relationships with others, including your boss, colleagues or employees, you are more likely to inspire loyalty. This makes everyone more productive, which in turn, ushers in success.
What’s more, compassionate people have lower stress levels, are more empathetic, are more likely to help others and are more resilient to the suffering of others, says Seppala.
3. Learn to enjoy doing nothing
Our lives these days are so fast-paced. We rush to work and back, rush our kids to school, classes and back and in general, fill our days with something – anything – to keep us busy.
But by doing so, have we lost the ability to simply enjoy the peace that doing nothing brings about?
According to the findings of a 2011 study, we should be giving ourselves some time off in order to be more creative, which in turn will encourage productivity.
Seppala recommends that whenever possible, you should try to "unplug" completely from work. And the same goes for kids. Let them take some time off homework, studies and enrichment classes to enjoy simply doing nothing. Hello happiness!
4. Learn to keep calm (and carry on)
When you are constantly in overdrive, you will probably end up burning out faster. This is no good because it means the potential of leaving your job is higher.
The same applies to our kids. Putting lots of pressure on them when they are young to excel in their studies may lead them to burnout when they are older and really need to perform. It also creates lots of anxiety and stress for both adults and children.
Seppala says learning to be calm helps you to manage your energy, which in turn, helps you calmly and successfully get through the task at hand.
5. Be resilient
When you constantly work without taking a break, it activates your sympathetic nervous system, also known as the "fight or flight" response. The long-term stress this creates is terrible for your health.
If you can train yourself to be resilient to the setbacks in your life, Seppala says you can also bounce back from them faster.
This has also been proven by research. A 2004 study showed that "resilient people were able to recover faster (as measured by their heart rate and blood pressure) when they used positive emotions to respond to a stressful experience."
6. Focus on the moment
We are constantly encouraged to work non-stop in order to stay on top of things. But at the same we are also distracted by many other things – whether this is related to our kids, our work to-do-list, or even Facebook.
This can actually kill productivity, suggests Seppala. She says that by intensely focussing on the now, the task at hand, we are much more productive, which leads to success.