The pursuit of happiness

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Linck
  • 71st Student Squadron commander

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Military life is challenging. Many things seem largely out of our control -- deployments, new assignments, training schedules and additional duties.

When facing these transitions and challenges we find ourselves falling into habit. We put one foot in front of the other as we march through the tough times, hoping that once we overcome the current challenge we can again find time for happiness.

This thinking leads us to believe that achieving certain goals will guarantee happiness. Harvard University professor Shawn Achor, author of the book “The Happiness Advantage,” points out problems with this formula.

“First, every time your brain has a success you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like,” said Achor. “You got good grades, now you have to get better grades. You got a good job, you have to get a better job. You hit your sales target, now we’re going to change your sales target.

“If happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. What we’ve done is we’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. That’s because we think we have to be successful, and then we’ll be happier,” said Achor.

The reality is our brains work in the opposite order. Psychologists suggest that happiness is not an outcome of success, happiness generates success.

If we are able to focus on being happy, we will find greater success in all aspects of our lives. Our challenge is to change the way we associate happiness and success, making happiness a priority.

How? Train our brains to look for and focus on happiness. Achor suggests the following positivity plan.

“In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, you can actually rewire your brain, allowing you to work more optimistically and more successfully,” said Achor.

He recommends taking time each day to write down three things that you are grateful for.

Achor discovered that at the end of 21 days your brain will have changed. You will now find that you scan the world not for the negative, but for the positive.

Achor concluded that, “By training your brain just like you train your body, you can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but create a real revolution.”

Making happiness a habit isn’t the only way to increase your happiness quotient.

Marla Gottschalk, director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent, recommends the following strategies when working to boost daily happiness.

Be mindful of the present -- Many of us have a tendency to focus on moments of missed opportunity or failures. The momentum of this negative thinking can distract us from positive things happening around us.

Recognize performance -- If in a supervisory position, don’t miss opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of others and increase their positive feelings.

Celebrate small successes -- Take time to notice and appreciate the small accomplishments that ultimately lead to larger victories.

Play to your strengths -- Seek out positions or duties in your organization that capitalize on your talents and character strengths.

Show gratitude -- “Thank you” are the two most powerful words in the workplace. Make sure you let others know how much you appreciate them and their work.

Happiness isn’t tied to achievement. It is generated by being mindful in everyday moments along the way. The results of that next assignment, next promotion, or next job will only shift your expectations to the right, keeping happiness out of reach.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with the thought that most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

In the pursuit of happiness, think of happiness not as the finish line but the race itself. Now and then, pause to just be happy.