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In America and many achievement-oriented cultures, there’s a prevailing belief about work… that is, that we should work to be happy. But could we have that backward?

In this fast-moving and entertaining Talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually, happiness inspires productivity and so to do our best work, we should first focus on our everyday happiness.

There is science to back up Achor’s advice. The science says it’s only by focusing on our whole life can we live a happy one.

In his book, Happier, Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar talks about the “arrival fallacy,” which he describes as: “The false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness.”

When we work to be happy, we live by this arrival fallacy. Promotion to the corner office is our career goal and we put in long hours for it. Once that becomes our new normal, we have another goal and want something more. This is what it means to live in a perpetual state of wanting.

What will make us happier?

Ben-Shahar suggests that it’s not reaching a particular destination (metaphorically speaking) that will make us happy, but rather appreciating the journey toward the destination. He writes: Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain…

happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.

In this sense, ambition, itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. Without our aspirational nature, we wouldn’t have invented smartphones and are now exploring life on Mars. Ambition is not the problem, but the absence of a balanced life is.

A balanced approach where all areas of our life matter pretty much guarantee that you’ll be happy. It looks something like this:

  • Prioritize people — put your family and your relationships first.
  • Pay attention to your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being DAILY.
  • Regularly express yourself through physical and creative pursuits.
  • Make time for fun, adventure and exploration—don’t just rely on passive forms of entertainment like shopping and watching TV for your pleasure.
  • Find a purpose for your life — something that everything else revolves around.

BTW, your purpose can’t be work unless work is a heartfelt passion that allows you to prioritize people and leave you with enough time to do the other things on this list.

Make more than a living!

Keep your eyes on your goals while pursuing everyday happiness. This approach also makes you better at your job, whether you’re a CEO, a mom, or an intern. It is the secret to better work.


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Written by

Christine Angelica

Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. She believes the way we live affects everything we do, especially our motivation.