by Dr. Erik Reis
Don’t wait for success to make you happy; You must create your happiness to find success.
We’ve heard it all before:
“Find what makes you happy and then go after it.”
“Happiness is the result of success and achievement.”
And my favorite, “Be on the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Before we dive in, I want to make it very clear that these statements aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re merely flawed and outdated. I will always support people who choose to pursue their dreams, passions, and goals, but first, we need to understand how to get there. And to get to where we want to go, we must first create our internal sense of happiness and well-being to know how these factors play a role in finding success.
Waiting for happiness to come is a losing battle, especially if we get caught in the mindset of waiting for a specific event, date, weight, object, or person to enter our lives. Most people think that finding success will create the happiness they’ve been looking for, but this logic is severely flawed.
Studies have shown that our external circumstances predict less than 10% of our total happiness, meaning that over 90% of our happiness comes from the way we view the world and internally process our environment! By simply knowing this fact alone, we can change our perspective to understand that our happiness is up to us to create. It won’t just happen as a result of an event.
Our reality is influenced by our perceptions, which is why we’ve all been at mercy to a classical phenomenon in neuropsychology called “The Pygmalion Effect,” named after the infamous sculptor who possessed the ability to envision his final pieces before they came to life fully. His inner beliefs shaped his outcomes, which reinforced his ability to create something out of nothing by merely using his mind to construct the final result before he even started. While this may sound “too good to be true,” we do this every day, starting with shaping our mindset around our daily schedule, relationships, and even our commute to and from work.
We each set a standard expectation of an event (for better or worse), which tells our brain to search and seek out any information in our environment that reinforces these expectations, causing positive reinforcement of our initial expectation and further solidifying this as a truth. It turns out these non-verbal and cognitive biases set us up for success (or failure) depending on how we look at the world, as we can always find a way to choose to see the glass half empty or half full when we focus on it. In this light, a true self-fulfilling prophecy can be a powerful thing in shaping our subjective reality and subsequent objective outcomes of our world.
Last, waiting for happiness to come is like a novice actor waiting to win an Oscar without putting in the time, energy, and effort. We know that the mere anticipation of a reward can light up pleasure centers in the brain as much as actually receiving that reward, which is why envisioning yourself winning can be so powerful in changing the way your brain views your world. Your mindset doesn’t just change how we feel about an experience; It can literally change the objective results of an experience!
We’ve known about the power of the placebo effect for quite some time now, yet it continues to amaze the scientific community about how vast the results can be for people who experience them. They’re so powerful that when administered in the correct pretense (i.e., this will “help” or “heal” you), placebo sugar pills have been shown to be 55 to 60% as effective as most pain medications like aspirin and codeine.
So if we can use our brains for making positive changes in our body, wouldn’t it make sense that we could use the same pathways to make positive changes in our reality and happiness? The answer is a resounding yes!
Since our brain manifests our reality based on what we expect to occur, a principle appropriately labeled “Expectancy Theory,” proposes that we all possess the innate ability to change our reality by choosing a specific emotion rather than waiting for that emotion to manifest. And if this is possible, then we must all intentionally take action to create our happiness instead of searching for the “pursuit of happiness.”
Although this may take some time, it’s 100% possible and scientifically validated to change the way you view your world, regardless of your current circumstances or condition.
And here’s an easy way to start right away: List three different positive or happy events that happened throughout your day. They don’t have to be big or small, just merely something positive that occurred to you or around you. It’s usually best to voice this to another person, as it can keep you accountable for doing it consistently and can also be a great way to share the spread of positivity and happiness with others, further fueling the fire of positive reinforcement.
I promise you; you will feel different!
It’s time to create your own happiness!
Dr. Erik Reis is an international speaker and educator, with over six years of clinical experience as a Doctor of Chiropractic and board-certified Functional Neurologist. He is the founder of SHIFT, which empowers employers to optimize workplace productivity and employee engagement by implementing simple solutions and habits that integrate neuroscience, functional nutrition, mindfulness, and holistic coaching practices. For more information: www.shifttogreat.com