As summer days in the Northern Hemisphere starts to end earlier, much of our attention shift to the coming year. What will I achieve? Will I be successful? We spend so much time trying to reach for the next thing, convinced that thing will give us greater happiness. If we reach that thing, we shoot for the next thing because the bliss we thought would come didn’t come. The cycle continues – a never-ending treadmill to the golden carrot in the sky. When we think about what brings us joy – true joy – it tends not to be what society or someone else has deigned for us as the pinnacle of success. At the end of the day (or end of our lives), it’s the meaningful relationships in our lives, the positive impact we have had on others, and the little things, like a rainbow after a rainstorm or a puppy playing with its reflection, that stay with us. Yet we spend most of our waking moments on an autopilot course to “success.” We are awake, but not awake. We forget that we are in command of how we define success and how to achieve it. We forget the power of our own outlook on what it means to have success. While some of us are glass-half-full and others glass-half-empty, reclaiming control over our own outlook isn’t not about being ignorant and cluelessly optimistic. Even for those of us who are more inclined to realism and pessimism, shifting our outlook on what success means to us as different individuals can help us live our best selves. Expressing daily gratitude, extending a kind hand, and practicing outward and inward compassion can boost our happiness tank and by doing so, we may find that we already have achieved our own brilliant, unapologetic definition of success.

Happy Mindset

Shawn Achor, the happy psychologist, presents fascinating findings that instead of success driving happiness, it’s the other way around. He argues that 90% of long-term happiness is the way in which our brain processes the world. If we can rewire our brain with new habits in 21 days, we can work – through meditation, focus, and generosity – to shift the lens by which we view the world. By shifting our outlook, we can train our brains to be more positive, resulting in greater success and productivity.

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

~ Aristotle

Success starts from a place of joy

1. Acknowledge the suckiness

Shifting our perspective on the world to a more positive one doesn’t mean ignoring the bad stuff. Sometimes, things are just crappy. When we try to pretend that “it’s not so bad,” we’re simply in denial. The more we try and push down the truth, the bigger a monster we create. By acknowledging it for what it is – crappy, we can better befriend the negative and turn it into our ally. When we then use it as an opportunity to turn it into something better.

  1. Stop comparing

We might be sick of the term, “keeping up with the Joneses,” and the Jones are probably tired of hearing it, too. Yet we all do it to some degree. Instagram makes it too easy, and Facebook makes it impossible not to. Most of us recognize that many of the curated photos of fancy travel shots and blissful couples and unreal yoga poses often hide a more complex and nuanced reality. The more we compare ourselves to these airbrushed versions of the Jones, the more we become dependent on external validation, the harder we try, and the more we fail. The secret is this: the Jones will always have more than you. Comparing your success to someone else’s will keep your mindset stuck in an endless pursuit of emptiness.
3. Say thank you

Don’t forget to express gratitude. Many of us never seem to “make it” because the goal of success, as defined by someone else, is a shifting goalpost. We jump over one hurdle, only to immediately look for the next hurdle, never pausing to appreciate the hurdle we just overcome. Forgetting to appreciate what we have keeps us on an external chase. Psychologists have observed that those who spend each day giving thanks can increase their sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. It could be as simple as being thankful for the air we breathe or electricity at night. Whatever it is, appreciating what you have may remind you to step back, pause, and smile at the little gifts you receive each day. Being grateful can help us recognize what is most important to us in the pursuit towards our own definition of success.

4. Be compassionate

We are so terribly mean – to ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not doing the “right” thing, feel guilty for not doing something someone told us to, and berate ourselves for “failing.” Rather than being the critic all the time, practicing compassion for others and for yourself can do wonders to shift your outlook. Imagine you have an innocent baby sister or a beloved grandparent. Now imagine if someone yelled and berated that beloved – being a failure, not being success. You’d likely be pretty mad and might even want to punch said person in the jaw. Yet we are often this person when we criticize ourselves at not “succeeding.” Extending kindness and understanding can rewire the brain to a more gentle and confident understanding of what success means to you. A little compassion can brighten the heart.

  1. Smile

Even when you might not feel like it, trick your mind by smiling. If you’re having trouble pretending to smile, search for cute puppy and baby videos on Youtube. Read Upworthy for positive news. If you’re still having trouble, hold a pencil between your teeth. You will find it rather difficult not to smile. Once you do, believe it or not, you will start feeling better.