Community Add OnsFourteen Fundamentals

Fundamental Six: Lower Your Expectations & Aspirations


Happy people are active people (as we saw in the chapter on Fundamental One). Happy people are productive people (as we reviewed in our discussion of Fundamental Three). Happy people know what they want and are well directed toward their goals (as we found in Fundamental Four). And, as we detailed in Volume I, happy people tend to be quite successful.

But now we find that these qualities may be just as much a result of happiness as a cause. Happiness is “The Great Motivator.” It makes us active and productive by its very nature. Accomplishment, therefore, may well be an unintended by-product of being happy in the first place! In fact, the most interesting thing about “happiness-induced” productivity is that it is “pure” productivity.

The productivity engendered by a happy mood is quite different than the “work” most of us do. When people are productive in a happy mood, it appears to be productivity that is intrinsically rewarding. Although there is a concrete goal in mind, that seems to matter little. Apparently, productivity in a happy mood is productivity for it’s own sake — productivity for the mere enjoyment of being productive. It is “pure” productivity, in the sense that it is done for the sheer joy that comes from doing. How different this is from the goal-based motivation that keeps most of our noses to the grindstone.

And just as happiness is “The Great Motivator,” unhappiness is “The Great A-motivator.” Nothing saps ones motivation like an unhappy mood. When one is depressed or “down,” even the slightest effort toward progress seems insurmountable. Energy vanishes, enthusiasm wanes, the desire to work with others is diminished. You put things off, you let things slide, and your productivity comes to a halt. Yet, interestingly, it is at those same unhappier times when desperate dreams of achieving lofty goals and ambitions tend to grip the imagination. What a tragic combination — when great achievements seem to be our only savior, our energy and motivation is barely with us.

So here, perhaps, we have the answer to our ironic contradiction. Apparently, happy individuals are successful in spite of themselves! Its not that they particularly need to be successful, they just end-up that way because they’re so happily productive!

As opposed to a “vicious circle,” here we have a “happy circle.” Happy people feel so good, they can’t help being active and productive. In being productive, they inevitably become successful. Their success adds to their happiness, thus they continue being happily productive. This leads to greater success — and round and round it goes!

Can it be that some people just stumble into success as a by-product of their happiness? Well, apart from our research on the nature of happy people, I ran across an interesting article in a national business magazine several years ago which gives testament to this very idea. It was one of those articles we all “love to hate” which dealt with a number of newly successful individuals. I believe it was entitled “The 50 Newest Millionaires in America,” or something like that, and it profiled the “success stories” of each of them.

The article was not a rigorous research effort, but the writers had attempted to objectify their conclusions somewhat, and one of the questions they asked themselves was “How had these people become so successful?” The answer was a bit of a surprise. Contrary to what most of us might imagine, very few of these “new successes” were motivated by a burning ambition to make it to the top. Fewer still had actually set a personal goal of “making a million dollars” for themselves. And only a minority of these successes described their climb to the top in terms of arduous work, emotional struggle, or personal sacrifice. In fact, just the reverse appeared to be true. The vast majority of these successes became wealthy doing what they loved to do! Neither fame nor riches were the objective. They were simply engrossed with the “doing” of their projects. Most described their ventures as being “the time of their lives.” The financial “bottom line” concerned them little. Indeed, many of these successes were actually shocked to find how lucrative their enterprise had become — it certainly wasn’t the primary object of their efforts.

Therein, I think we have our lesson. Happy individuals end up being more successful, almost in spite of themselves. It may be one of the payoffs for being a happy person, in the first place. If not that, it certainly seems the result of doing what makes you happy.

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