Happiness Or Success…Choose Wisely


What quickly becomes ingrained in us from a very young age is that specific events will make us happy. Getting married (or divorced), making a sale, passing a course etc – all of these things get somehow tied in to whether we are happy or not. What is awfully difficult to do is ‘be happy’.

Happiness is, by virtue of being tied to such events, a moment. As it is also tied to an event – it therefore dissipates as the outcome of that event also fades. Worse still, as we anticipate these events, our happiness builds and unfortunately the feeling generated from the event itself can be disappointing in comparison to our anticipation of it.

What we do is trade happiness for happy moments. We don’t seek to be happy.

There’s increasing writings and research on the ‘choose happiness’ mindset which is happiness isn’t something we get, isn’t a destination, isn’t a event – but something we choose to be. Often easier said that done isn’t it?

Not only do we learn to link happiness with moments/events – we also learn to tie happiness to success, but the wrong way around. We think happiness is an outcome of success.

If we look at happiness in a professional context – scan your office. Who are the happy ones? Are they also the successful ones?

So now we’re starting to think about the links between success and happiness. Are they inter-twined? Often you will find that success breeds happiness – albeit often, unfortunately, for only as long as the success continues.

So, does happiness breed success? Hold on – this now challenges a mindset doesn’t it. This actually means you must choose to be happy before you are successful and being happy will drive success. Is it not amazing that when you are on roll professionally, success seems to find your more easily? But hold on – surely to get on that roll you must have been successful in the first place? Yes, but why were you is the question? Sullen, concerned, negative, mopey sales people seldom get success. But they constantly think ‘I will be happy when I am successful’. What they are basically saying to themselves is ‘I am currently a failure’. They just hide this truism by the way they phrase their internal monologue as it is easier as success is something that will happen to them whereas happiness is an effort they have to choose now.

What also happens if you tie happiness to success in this way? Well, you can pretty much guarantee that even when you are successful, whilst you may be happy, the next ‘moment’ looms on the horizon. You have a fantastic year, you’ve hit top of the leaderboard and you get a massive bonus cheque. Woohoo!!!! However, the following day your sales leader gives you next years target – and thump – ‘well I guess I can be happy again in 12 months time when I hit this one too’. When we tie happiness to events – we are actually seldom happy for long. Successful people are the most guilty of this as they constantly reset their goals once they hit them. Similarly, there is no such thing as a perfect situation so, whilst that particular ‘event’ we’ve been hanging our happiness on may make us happy situationally, we have other ones we’re juggling which are casting a shadow on it. We are seldom 100% happy.

To use an example of how we’ve tied happiness to success from a very young age.

When you watch a young child play sport for the first time – they are simply happy to be involved. To be doing it. To be outside. To be with their friends/family. They are happy simply because of the involvement. They’re the kid playing in the mud on the sports field rather than chasing the ball. They’re simply happy being there. The sheer effort and involvement makes them happy. If you’re a parent, you’ll even know that even the thought they could be going out to play makes them excited.

However, as they get better the sport and it becomes more serious – what changes?

Somewhere along the line we shift our basis for being happy from effort to outcome. Again, we sub-contract out our happiness to a moment/outcome/score. As parents, we’re often guilty of this in how we praise our children. When they win – instead of going – that is because of all the practise and effort you put in – we often go – that is because you are talented. Think about this with school tests – when your child aces a test – do you go ‘this is because you studied hard’ or ‘you’re so smart’? What happens when you child then encounters someone who practised harder than them? How will they react? Will they go ‘I need to practice harder’ or ‘I’m bad at this sport’. Will they go ‘I’m happy with the effort I put in and will try harder next time’ or ‘Woe is me I lost, I am just not good enough at this sport?’.

Will they actually continue to enjoy a sport where they originally were excited simply to play but now their happiness hinges on the outcome? Is this not the reason many people give up sport and many other things in life. They get to the point where there is more effort required to improve and they perceive their chances of success are lessening – so chasing success and therefore happiness is a worthless cause? Is this simply because rather than deriving happiness from the improvement itself, they are deriving it solely from the outcome?

To demonstrate the point: How many times have you chosen not to do something simply because there was someone better than you doing it? I know I have.

Bring this to work now. Replace sport with sales targets? Is it any different? We are professional sub-contractors of our happiness as a rule. Worse, do we ‘opt out’ entirely where we believe we can’t be successful?

We have leaderboards which tell us if we are better or worse than our peers. We have market share data which tells us if we are better or worse than our competitors. We have targets which tells us if we have passed or failed this month. We have customers that tell us if we are liked or not. We can often be praised if we win a deal, ignored or worse if we don’t. We are professionals at allowing others to tell us when to be happy!

Sales leadership is like that sporting parent. You can either focus on the effort and growth or the outcome. Each has a very different impact on happiness (and mindset)

You shape whether your team externalises their happiness or not through how you lead them, coach them and remunerate them.

How Do You Own Your Happiness?

Know Your WooHoo Moments.

Where do you have your ‘woohoo’ moments in your job?

What parts of your role give you motivation, energy and drive you? Sure we all love when we hit our target – and this actually may be your ‘woohoo’. But choose it consciously for yourself, not because someone else says it’s important. Every one gets energy from different sources.

Once you know what drives you, it becomes quite powerful. One of my team told me ‘winning deals’ is where I get my energy. Fantastic! But let’s talk about what that means. So if we know winning a deal is important – how does this affect your view of personal development? Huh? Surely, if winning deals is where you get your energy, you will invest time for your personal development to continually get better to improve your skills to win more consistently. To drive more woohoo’s.

Amazing how knowing where you get your energy provides context to the other things you need to do in your role. To extend this, if you love winning deals – surely having a ‘crowd’ is important, more so than lone wolfing? Because, through having a crowd, you have advocates, knowledge experts, shared resources etc. They can help you win more deals, together. Isn’t it an even better feeling to share that win? Knowing where your energy comes from can alter your context as well.

Know Yourself

What do you hold core to who you are? Is it family, being an expert, being wealthy, being respected, being part of a team? What are your core values? Usually what you will find it your ‘woohoo’ moments will align to your value and your high energy use moments will conflict with them. For example – if ‘Family’ is a core value for you, you may find after work functions difficult, but love breakfast functions instead? (I am this person and it took me a while to work out). If ‘Health’ is a core value and you’re not making time for to exercise, you will eventually become unhappy.

What is as equally important to knowing where you get your energy, is to know where you lose it. What is harder to do for you. Even if you speak to people who absolutely love their role – they will have parts that don’t enjoy or aren’t good at. If you can, minimise, delegate or avoid it. If you can’t, consciously choose to do it in the context of knowing how it moves you towards your real purpose.

Know Where You’re Going

When you don’t have a vision/plan – it is much easier for the negative moments to override the positive because, if you don’t have a plan, you have no idea if you are progressing or not so any and every set back can seem huge. When you have a plan, obstacles are just that, something you need to move around to get where you’re going. You tend to look over the obstacle rather than get target fixation.

A great example is the difference between someone who goes to the gym because ‘they feel fat’ versus someone who goes to the gym to be able to run 10km next month. One is a criticism, the other is a goal. One will see you still lying in bed in the morning because it is raining, the other will see you in your car without a second thought.

Own Your Target

Targets are a fact of life. But the one set for you doesn’t need to be the one you live by. If it is, choose it don’t let it choose you. Too many sales people I encounter can only recite the company’s expectation of them, not their own expectations of themselves. Why? What expectations/targets to you hold yourself accountable to? What is your personal charter? Why you?

In my experience, once you can demonstrate to your sales leader/employer that you hold yourself to a higher standard than they expect (KPI’s are often the minimum expectation in reality) – they will quickly develop a trust in you beyond someone who simply ‘does the job’.

Focusing more on the effort involved than the outcome is also a crucial aspect to how one deals with targets. It isn’t what you have to achieve that is important – it is how you will go about getting there and why. This is the workplace equivalent of showing your workings at school. You may get the wrong answer but a) people can see you tried rather than guessed and b) they can understand how you got there and help. Also – by breaking your targets down – it becomes infinitely easier for you to be present and own your happiness today, rather than postpone your choice to be happy until X occurs.

An example in sales is – if I know what my ‘annual’ expectations are – but I also have trust that if I set myself the goal to ring 6 prospects today, visit one client and speak to an intermediary I will have the greatest chance to achieve this target, I have reset my target in simple form. And if I achieve this by lunchtime – how does my happiness compare than if I am sitting on the 3rd day of the month wondering if I will hit plan or not by the end of it?

In one I will leave that day happy – not that I’ve hit my target, sure, but that I gave what I could to get there.

In the other I spend 27 days hoping I will be happy, versus spending 27 days being happy.

I know which I would rather choose.

Dynamic Happiness

Your woohoo moments will change over time. This is often why we see mature sales people burn out. They start trying to chase the dragon when it comes to their happiness, rather than realise that what drives happiness changes. Like a drug, the happiness from winning deals no longer cuts it. The deals have to be bigger, harder, etc. So what happens is that haven’t realised that what used to make them happy, doesn’t any more.

They haven’t actually burned out – they have simply lost sight of their woohoo moments because they’ve changed and they haven’t.

When we’re younger, simply having a job makes us happy – we’re like the kid playing sport for the first time. Then, as we mature, our happiness starts being contracted out and we let it happen. We let leaderboards, market share data etc determine whether we are happy or not.

Here is an interesting exercise for you to try for the next couple of weeks…..

Next time some one asks you how you are – reply ‘I am awesome, how are you?

Not okay/good/not bad – but awesome, fantastic, brilliant! Why? Imagine the word ‘awesome’ is the scale on which you measure your day. It is your power word. When you say ‘Not Bad’ – are you not saying you measure your day on how bad it is – or ‘No Complaints’ – that a good day is simply when you have nothing to complain about?

Pay attention to what reaction you get. What conversations this incites. More importantly, reflect on how saying it makes you feel. Happiness starts with a thought.


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