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The Importance of Happiness for Success

by Ian Lynch(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 143 - January 2008

One of the mantras of human existence in the Western World is that you should ‘make a success of your life’ and from an early age, as the starting gun sounds, we are off on our journey to stake our claim, to begin climbing the ladder, to feather our nest, to make our mark, to achieve and to be seen to achieve great things. Status, our financial wealth, the type of work we do, where we work and for whom we work, the circle of friends we keep, these are all ways in which success is often measured. When we live with such goals, we join the race to succeed, the competition to win the prizes, the accolades, the victories and the badges that will show how well we have performed.

In our clamour to succeed we become busy and even our busyness can be a badge of honour, with prizes on offer for the longest hours worked, the most number of emails received and the smallest amount of time off. When we greet people, it is commonplace to ask “are you keeping busy?” as if this was somehow not only a measure of accomplishment, but also a good place to be. Try saying “no, actually I am not busy” and you will most likely be confronted with a look of surprise and some concern. “Are you alright, what has happened?” may be the response, as if not being busy was somehow a sign of disease, of a loss, failure or a sign of having no work, rather than the possibility that it might be a smart way to be.

In this Manic Society (ref: Success Intelligence by Dr Robert Holden) we spur each other on with slogans such as ‘Go for it’, ‘Just do it’, ‘You can make it happen’ and ‘You can have it all’. But what is this ‘it’ that we chase, that we must have? Have we ever stopped and given ‘it’ our best thinking?

Research has shown that today we have more things and are better off than any other generation, yet the World Health Organization has predicted that depression will be a major disease of the 21st century.

Pick up newspapers today and you can see stories about celebrities and the rich and the famous, people who on the face of it would appear to have everything, who have reached the pinnacle of their professions, yet are not just unhappy but often do not even feel a success. How can this be? Perhaps one of the clues lies in the ‘its’ that we strive for, those ‘you can have it alls’. Whenever you read national opinion surveys on life, do the ‘its’ ever come out on top? Are achievements and possessions at the top of the list? With thousands of respondents to these types of survey, time after time when given the option to choose between wealth and happiness, the huge majority of people choose happiness, and if asked to choose between success and happiness, most people choose happiness. If that is the case, what really is success? Is it possible to have real success without happiness?

Over the last 20 years there has been a growing movement of people interested in success and happiness. Life Coaching has grown to become an internationally recognized way of helping people individually and in organizations to achieve success, and in psychology there has been a shift from problem spotting to looking at ways to encourage positive change in a movement called positive psychology. Shift Happens!

Success Intelligence

One organization that has been examining and showing others the way to experience true happiness and meaningful success is called Success Intelligence, based just outside of London. In the guise of The Happiness Project, the organization founded by Dr Robert Holden (who holds a doctorate in happiness) captured many people’s attention when in 1996 the BBC aired a QED documentary entitled How to Be Happy. Millions tuned in to follow the eight-week journey of three of the participants who had volunteered for the programme. The three, Caroline, Dawn and Keith, were put through a variety of tests before and after the programme and the results from the course were outstanding. It was acclaimed by the experts that the course was a fast-track to happiness, and the implications of this fact were not lost to corporate minds who saw the benefits of having a happy and motivated workforce.

A recent 2007 report prepared by YouGov has stated that “the best organizations work hard to create a happy workforce and reap the benefits.” In addition, the report stated that “happy employees are more likely to be favourable about their organization both in terms of them being a good employer and of products, services and brand. Such employee advocacy can be an important driver of talent attraction and customer retention.”

In a nutshell, smart organizations are realizing that happiness and success go hand in hand. Happy people are more creative, take fewer days off, are less likely to leave their work and add value to their employers, which can mean measurable success in a competitive environment. Happiness equates to success and success equates to happiness.

Success Intelligence takes the principles of happiness and creates spaces for people to stop and take time to work out what success really is, for both themselves and the environment in which they work. Whilst a few years ago the mention of happiness and love in the corporate world would have caused security to be called for followed by an unceremonious removal from the building, today messages such as ‘love is the new competitive advantage’ have not only been widely accepted but also acclaimed as truths. It is a remarkable change.

Becoming Happier

So how can we become happier? The starting point is to realize that happiness is an inside job, it comes from within. The source of most fears stems from the erroneous belief that happiness is somewhere else, around the corner, in the next pay cheque, the promotion, the new relationship or in the next town. One of the participants in the QED documentary, Dawn, moved seven times in seven years in her pursuit of happiness. Whilst it worked for a while, the old thoughts and beliefs showed up and she moved on yet again, until she spent those eight weeks looking at her relationship with happiness which changed her life, kept her in one place and left the estate agents ruing the loss of a good client. Quite simply, nothing in the world can make you happy, but everything in the world can encourage you to be happy. The difference is subtle yet powerful. No amount of money, fame or glory can make you happy. Just look at the number of celebrities in rehab and expensive clinics. Money helps us to live a better lifestyle, but if we are not happy inside we will not appreciate it or possibly even keep it. Sunshine cannot make you happy, but it certainly helps! Once we grasp that happiness can be a choice, and that if we put our best efforts and time into our happiness, we are on our way to a happier life.

To be happier we must give up our independence. The day of the independent person is over, if you are alive you need help. By dropping our guards and our barriers to other humans, we open ourselves to love, to fun and to laughter. Laughter is a great medicine and a good measurement of how happy we are. A lack of laughter is usually a call for love and a warning sign that our life is somewhat out of balance. It also has a powerful side-effect as more and more research shows how the effects of laughter can have a positive impact on our health. The book Anatomy of an Illness blazed a trail, recounting the story of one man, its author Norman Cousins, who overcame disease by, amongst other things, watching funny movies, which has and continues to be the subject of university research programmes across the world.

Attitude of Gratitude

Another great way to increase happiness levels is to practise an attitude of gratitude. If we begin to honour and notice the events, the people and the things that happen to us each day, we begin to realize how much there is to celebrate and be thankful for. It shifts us from taking things for granted into takings things with gratitude. The shift is a powerful one, and helps draw our attention towards the things in our life we gave importance to. Sometimes, tragically, it is illness and loss that makes us aware of the sweet things in life, so practising an attitude of gratitude is a wise way to bring happiness now. This is the key to happiness, for happiness happens in the present, and the present is here and now and a gift! Smart bosses also reward and recognize employee successes, and a simple heartfelt acknowledgement, especially a public one, can work wonders for morale and self-esteem.

If you want to be happy, you have to give up all hope of a better past. Forgiveness, and an understanding that it is for our benefit and not anyone else’s, gives us wings to be free from the shackles that can hold us torn apart by the past. Being present allows us to receive the gifts life has to offer now.

To be happy and successful is to know that there is nothing wrong with you. No amount of self-improvement can make up for a lack of self-acceptance. The final act of healing happens when we accept there is nothing wrong with us, that we are lovable. Tom Carpenter, a renowned teacher of A Course in Miracles, invites people to see other people’s purpose as being here to love us. It is surprising what an effect this thought has on how you see other people. Try it and see for yourself.

Happiness is more than a pleasurable emotion, it is your compass, your teacher; it is creative and a source of inspiration and fundamental to any real success in life. The good news is that it is never too late to be happy. It is never too late for a new beginning. Whilst it can take time to overthrow old beliefs and habits, which is why life coaching can be so powerful, today is a great day to commit to being happier. Making time to talk with loved ones, friends and colleagues about happiness and success; finding out what each person thinks can do wonders for building bridges, for strengthening relationships and for
creating happy and successful days.

Ultimately, success is not about driving yourself harder and faster, it is about letting go of what blocks your heart’s desire. To be truly successful in life, as with any activity, requires vision, your best thinking and constant review and, above all else, love. It requires courage. The courage to let go of the past, the courage to say no to what is not really success for you, and the courage to say yes to what you really want. If your definition of success does not include happiness, get another definition. You did not come into the world to play small, to play the victim or to dance to someone else’s tune. You have gifts to give and to receive and a contribution to make, and in the final instance, your happiness is your gift to the world and the mark of real success.


Holden R Dr. Happiness Now! Hay House. ISBN 978-1-4019-2039-5.
Holden R Dr. Success Intelligence. Hodder. ISBN 0-340-83017-4.
YouGov report. The Employee Benefits Exhibition & Conference.
Tom Carpenter. Dialogue on Awakening. The Carpenters Press. ISBN 0-9633051-0-7.


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About Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch is a Business Manager, Presenter and Life Coach who works with Success Intelligence and The Happiness Project. For more information please visit or contact Ian via

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