Happiness and productivity

There’s a popular video that circulated Facebook recently about a Harvard psychologist who studies happiness. In one easy sentence, the video posits that happiness leads to success, not the other way around. We often create a reality where we refuse to be happy until we’ve achieved some definition of success, but that way of thinking is dangerous and will ultimately never lead to happiness (or success).

You don’t get happy by achieving success. You achieve success by getting happy.

I believe someone mentioned this a few thousand years ago as well.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Maybe the parallels aren’t immediately obvious. We are taught that in order to be happy we need achieve or acquire. Once we get the job, the car, the house, or whatever we will then be happy. Essentially, this road to happiness is all about pleasing ourselves and our most superficial desires.

Jesus teaches the opposite. Put the Kingdom of God first. Seek His righteousness before all else, and then you will find joy. C.S. Lewis wrote “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” There’s a mystery at play in this universe. Everything seems to be an enormous paradox. Logic tells us that if we want something specific we must laser focus on that thing and devote all of our time and energy to achieving it. But such a single-minded pursuit often leads to weakness, insanity, and depression that leaves us cripled and unable to move forward. Focusing on His Kingdom and His righteousness equips us with health, energy, and clarity.

So how do we find contentment now? Yes I want a promotion or a raise, but how do I find happiness in my current position? Again the Harvard professor brilliantly rediscovered what Jesus said:

  1. Be thankful. Every day write down three things you’re thankful for.
  2. Journal. Record a positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours.
  3. Meditate. Pray. Spend time thanking God for what you have.
  4. Encourage. Every day encourage someone else, thank them, or praise them.

Overall, be positive. And the easiest way to be positive is to think about the good things you have. The best way to be content in the moment is to focus on the good things in the moment. It’s easy to find things that are lacking in your life, but it takes an intentional effort to recognize the things that are going well.

It’s not wrong to have goals. I believe there is such a thing as healthy discontent. You should want your business to grow. You should want to get out of debt. You should want to get to a healthy weight or healthy lifestyle. But be thankful for what you have, be positive, and encourage others. This will get you farther, faster.

Written on September 23, 2015