What is Pleasure?

So if happiness is an inner state of well-being that can be created, what is pleasure?  To oversimplify, pleasure is an activity that makes you “feel good now.” Pleasure is different from happiness in that, instead of being created within and by you, it comes from outside stimuli. You get pleasure from an event, activity, or occurrence that generates positive feelings. Eating a good meal, buying something nice, playing Xbox, or watching a movie can create pleasurable sensations. Because pleasure comes from outside stimuli, it is short-lived and limited to the timeframe during and immediately after the activity occurs. Pleasure is also different from happiness in that we quickly adapt to the level of pleasure an activity provides, and we need more and more of that activity to provide more pleasure.

Pleasure is subject to a phenomenon known as Hedonic Adaptation, or the Hedonic Treadmill. In other words, a person gets accustomed to the activity creating the pleasure; and in order to experience continued pleasure, the level of the activity has to be elevated. Video games are a great example of this phenomenon: there are always more levels to advance to, so the game is constantly changing and becoming more difficult. How fun would a game be if there were only one level, with one degree of difficulty? Personally, my kids gain a lot of pleasure from playing video games, but I’ve noticed they can’t play the same game at the same level for an extended period of time. The challenges of the game have to be constantly increased. They want more and more challenging levels; or they want to break their previous records; or, even better, they want to switch to more realistic game experiences.

Many of us believe that once we get that {fill in the blank: car, house, boyfriend, money}, that is all we’ll need or want. We will not want anything else. Has that ever really happened for you? How long after you bought your new car were you ready to buy another one? How about that girl in high school— the one who, if she would just go out with you, all your dreams would come true? Did that work out? What about the beliefs that “if I can just graduate college, or if I can just get that first job, or if I can just get a promotion, or a raise, then I will be happy”? After those things happened, you were probably happy, even giddy for a while. But soon you returned to your normal level of happiness. This principle can also apply to more dangerous situations, such as drug addiction. The first time a person tries a particular drug, he only needs a little to get an intense reaction. But his body adapts quickly; and the next time he needs a little more, and the next time even more. His body continually adapts and needs more of the drug (or a more potent drug) to get the same feeling.

Over the centuries, our ancestors survived and prospered because of their amazing ability to adapt to changing circumstances. This is great when conditions are negative, such as in harsh climates or with limited food sources. They adapted so they would survive and not be miserable. They adjusted to the new normal and began looking for ways to flourish. The trait works similarly when conditions are good. Rather than being happy and comfortable with warm weather and plenty of food, they adapted to those comforts and looked to add more. Their brains were wired not to settle completely so they wouldn’t become overly comfortable and stop trying to make things better. This trait we inherited pushes us to always get better, and to continue to evolve and move.

Unfortunately, it can also work against us now that we have all the comforts human beings could need. We are still trying to evolve, so we keep adapting, even to the great things in our life. When we encounter pleasure, chemicals in our brain are released that make us feel very good and make us want more. We instinctually look for ways to repeat and increase that level of pleasure. We are programmed to want more rather than to be grateful and satisfied with what we have. We find something pleasurable, and we adapt to it and want more. This is the basis of Hedonic Adaptation and the reason many of us run on the Hedonic Treadmill.

One of the most famous and surprising studies about Hedonic Adaptation was done in 1978. It showed that whether a person had won the lottery or became a paraplegic, as quickly as two months later, that person had returned to the level of happiness experienced prior to the event. It also showed that often, over the long term, the paraplegics actually became happier. The lottery winners quickly adapted to their new mansions instead of apartments, and champagne instead of beer. They had no way to move up after a series of initial improvements. The champagne was top of the line and the beer didn’t taste as good anymore. Going back to a job paying $30,000 per year held no interest for someone who had won millions of dollars in the lottery.

The paraplegics, on the other hand, reached rock bottom. Every movement was new and appreciated. They had nowhere to go but up. Every day brought a new challenge, and overcoming each challenge brought joy and confidence that built on itself. The happiness came from overcoming lots of challenges and running into and overcoming roadblocks that they could face because of their experience in winning tiny battles in the past.

Winning tiny battles and overcoming obstacles builds self-confidence that can’t be easily undone. If you appreciate and celebrate what you have accomplished, the next bigger challenge seems more doable. This creates a virtuous circle of success that builds on itself. Your ability to experience happiness over time becomes stronger. That is why older people and people who have experienced significant trauma in their lives tend to be happier. They have been through the trials and tribulations that strengthened their confidence, provided perspective, and gave them a reservoir of memories and successes to call on whenever life presents negative challenges.

One other reason lottery winners are not as happy as people might expect is related to activity in the brain created by earning a reward instead just being given the reward. Researchers at Emory University measured brain activity when subjects had to complete tasks to earn money vs. when they were just given envelopes of money with no effort required. The subjects who worked for their money showed significantly more activity in the pleasure centers of the brain, and these effects lasted much longer than those in the subjects who received money without expending any effort. It seems the Science of Happiness supports what grandfathers everywhere have believed and taught for years about money: “I get my money the old-fashioned way. I earn it.”

Hedonic Adaptation also explains why the standard of living in the US has gone up 250% in the past 50 years, while the average level of happiness has not kept pace. We are adapting to the nicer houses, cars, and general consumerism faster than we can earn more money to buy bigger and even better stuff.

Pleasure, by definition, is something that is positive. If it is negative, we call it pain. Happiness, on the other hand, includes both positive and negative events. Happiness does not mean everything is always good and we are always wearing rose-colored glasses. Happiness is experiencing negative events and emotions and knowing that we can get through them and come out okay. It is also knowing how to get through those tough times, knowing how to use our minds and our memories to make the best of our current situations. People who have developed the skills for happiness are aware of something my mom has always said: “This too shall pass.”

Another important point is that we can experience pleasure even when we are not happy. Again, drug use and alcoholism are clear examples. Addicts experience short-term pleasure when they indulge, even though they are often depressed, or at least unhappy. As soon as they sober up, a potential inability to deal with the present situation can cause them to jump back into chasing the quick pleasure again and again.

As an analogy, buying art is a pleasure. Putting it in your house and looking at it is pleasurable. Becoming an artist is more like happiness. You have to work at it. You can’t buy it. It is not something you can get from outside of yourself. It can only happen if you spend the time and cultivate the skills necessary to become an artist. The small but important difference in becoming an artist and becoming happy is that talent may be a requisite to be a successful artist, while truly anyone can be successful at finding happiness if he or she is willing to put in the time and acquire the skills.

 

Let’s do a quick review of the differences between pleasure and happiness:

 

Happiness Pleasure
Internal External
Ongoing Present during the pleasurable activity
Builds on itself Subject to Hedonic Adaptation
Lasting state Temporary state
Way of thinking Often an impact to the senses
No Limits Too much can become addictive and disconnect you from happiness
Includes negative events Defined as positive
Includes dealing with the pain Attempt to avoid pain
Includes Pleasure Can occur without happiness
Within our control Dependent on external factors

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness Hack #73 – Know that You are Enough

happiness_you_are_enough-1

You are enough.  It is ok to want to be more, but you will be happier and more successful if you can first understand that you are good enough just the way you are.   You are worthy of being treated fairly and with respect. You are worthy of feeling important and feeling like you can make a difference in the world. You have flaws and have made mistakes, but that is ok, because so has everyone else. Other people have more; more money, more recognition, more opportunities, more friends, and more of lots of things. But still other people also have less of those things. We are not keeping score. Your worthiness is not based on who has more or less. You are worthy because you are you; and you are different, not better or worse than anyone else. If you want to change you can.  But don’t change because you are not enough; change because you want to be more. Don’t torture yourself with the lie that you don’t measure up. Believe that you are good enough and you, like everyone else, can always get better.

Embrace happiness now.  Happiness should not be feared because it might be fleeting.  It should be embraced because it is here. You are worthy of feeling happiness.  You deserve to be happy.  Don’t let your fear of what you might lose, keep you from being happy about what you have.

Embrace being imperfect. The quest for perfection drives us to never feel good enough. Embrace your worthiness and grow because you want it for yourself, not because you want to measure up to someone else. It is ok to say “no.” You don’t have to do everything. Practice appreciating what you have and who you are. Reach out to your network for support. There are others in your life who believe in you, if you are willing to let them in.

 

You are enough and you will be happier, when you make that a guiding principle of your life.

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #3 – Share Your Smile

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

Alexia was among the most beautiful people I knew on campus. Her beauty was not merely external: it was also internal. This inner beauty shined through her speech, her actions, her attitude, her schedule, her bearing, and her smile. I remember a number of times coming down to the front desk of Honors Hall with questions and concerns, and Alexia was so helpful and kind. She was a hard and determined worker. I was amazed after hearing about everything she was involved in. Her drive was motivating and inspiring. Amidst school and work, Alexia still had time for Honors Hall, her residents, and her friends. Even when she was faced with stress, she dealt with it in a composed manner.

Every time I walked into Honors Hall, and Alexia was in the lobby or working the front desk, she always made it a point to smile or say, “Hi, Julie! How are you?” Even though she probably never realized it, those hellos really meant a lot to me.

At the conclusion of this spring’s semester, a huge number of exciting doors opened in my life. When Alexia heard about them, she gave me a huge hug and a joyful “Congratulations!” I came to Alexia with some problems and I knew that if I ever needed help with something personal and troubling, I could go to her. I felt so comfortable around her. She made herself approachable and available to any who needed her.

The thing that will always stand out in my mind when I think of Alexia Ardeleanu is her smile. Her smile was contagious, so joyful, and happy. It was a very rare occasion to see her without it.

Julie Hagen, Honors Hall Resident

 

My most prominent memory of Alexia is her uplifting attitude. Even when I saw her very busy with a lot of things on her plate, I don’t recall ever seeing her with a negative attitude. She made such an effort to make me feel welcome on staff that I looked forward to running in to her.      Marla Ross

Alexia always knew how to cheer me up with her genuine, sweet smile and words of encouragement that honestly lifted my spirit more than most people could.                         Jennifer Ciocan

 

Lesson: Share your smile.

Your smile is one of the best gifts you can share with the world. It is easy and doesn’t cost anything.  It communicates warmth, welcome, and caring. Your smile is viral and will make others want to smile. Smiling actually releases a chemical in your brain that makes you happier. People who see your smile will instinctually mimic it and it will make them happier. It will then spread to other people who see them smiling. Practice smiling. Share your smile with everyone. It makes more difference than you could ever imagine.

 

Opportunity: Think about whether you are so focused on team and personal challenges that you are walking around with a grimace on your face, or are you taking a few moments to appreciate life and share your smile with others?

 

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

What is Happiness?

What we are talking about when we say “happiness?” Happiness means many different things to many different people. Happiness is a higher-level pursuit or achievement. Several authors and philosophers have captured this concept:

 

Mathieu Ricard, a Buddhist Monk with a degree in Molecular Genetics, and author of the book Happiness says “Happiness is more than a mere pleasurable sensation. It is a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment. A state that pervades and underlies all emotional states and all the joys and sorrows that can come one’s way.”

 

Mahatma Gandhi said “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

 

Gandhi also said “Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.”

 

Robert Ingersoll stated “Happiness is not a reward – it is a consequence.”

Deepak Chopra said “Happiness is more than a mood. Its a long-lasting state that is more accurately called well-being.”

 

Wayne Dyer, a self-development author and speaker, explains that “Happiness is something that you are and it comes from the way you think.”

Margaret Lee Runbeck, another author, wrote “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”

Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle proposed that “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

 

George Sheehan, a doctor and author, wrote “Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.”

And finally, John B. Sheerin said “Happiness is not in our circumstances but in ourselves. It is not something we see, like a rainbow, or feel, like the heat of a fire. Happiness is something we are.”

They all describe happiness as something that is within you, something that you create, rather than something that comes from external forces.

What is happiness?

  1. Happiness is a feeling of contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment.
  2. Happiness is a sense of inner peace vs. external restlessness.
  3. Happiness is an on-going state of well-being vs. a fleeting experience.
  4. Happiness is a state of mind, rather than an event or activity.
  5. Happiness includes bad as well good experiences.
  6. Happiness is internal and not a victim of external experiences that we can’t control.
  7. Happiness is created, not received.
  8. Happiness is within our control.

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness Hack #72 – Talk About Your Feelings of Shame and Rejection

happiness_talk_about_it

 

We evolved to be social.  In groups we were able to find more food and protect ourselves from threats much more successfully than we could do alone.  Survival was based on our ability to remain a part of a group. If we did not fit in or were not a contributing member and were kicked out of the group, then we literally might not survive alone.  That now plays out in our modern brains as a need to fit in and be liked. When we feel like someone might not like us or might not see us as valuable, our survival instincts kick in and we literally feel fears and emotions that are usually reserved for life-threatening situations. We are able to intellectually understand that being rejected shouldn’t be a big deal, but our subconscious is screaming at us that we are in danger of not being able to survive.  Those two competing forces cause us to have feelings and take actions that don’t always make sense to us and can often derail our calm façade.

The good news is there is a solution. By just becoming aware of what is causing this conflict, we can become better at managing it.  If we understand and admit that we are feeling rejected and fearful, we can start to deal with the real feelings we are experiencing, even if we intellectually believe it shouldn’t be that big of deal.  Recognize the panic and the shame you feel when you are left out or not appreciated. Admitting those feelings is not a sign of weakness, but instead a sign of strength and your ability to deal with the deep seeded emotions we all feel.

Be vulnerable. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings of shame and rejection.  Share and work through these feelings that are real and impactful in your life. Be your true self and admit your true feelings, and you will be happier and more successful.

 

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #10 – Make an Impact

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

I had the privilege and luck to know and work with Alexia for a year and a half. In that time I found she was kind hearted, professional, and a joy to work with and know as a friend. As a Resident Assistant for about a year before Alexia arrived at Honors Hall I thought I had a measure for the kind of people I would encounter at my job. Alexia surpassed my expectations. It isn’t hyperbole to state that by the end of her first week she knew more about being a good RA than I did. Outside of work she brought a fire to the honors hall community that never existed before her.     Eric Johnson

 

Lesson: Make an impact.

How do you move through the world? You can demand the world adapt and change to your needs or you can make a positive impact and leave good feelings wherever you go. You can “go through the motions” and exert as little effort as possible or you can bring your passion and creativity to your job and other leadership opportunities. As a leader, make it your goal to impact people’s lives in a positive manner. Take passion and caring into every project and every job. Try to make a difference.

Opportunity: Find out where can you make an impact today?

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Are You Chasing Pleasure Instead of Happiness?

The Pleasures that you seek are not happiness at it’s Peak, for it is contentment that gives true fulfillment.  – The Coach

The first concept in connecting happiness and success is understanding the difference between pleasure and happiness. Are you chasing immediate pleasures like sex, decadent foods, couch time, and video time; or are you nurturing relationships, maintaining your health through diet and exercise, finding ways to improve yourself, and being thankful for what is working in your life? The pursuit of pleasure involves feeling good in the short term, and if overdone it can create a risk of negative long-term outcomes; in contrast, the pursuit of happiness consists of intentional activities and habits that promote long-term health and well-being.

Many people mistakenly chase pleasure, believing they are chasing happiness. They often end up unhappy and confused. They become victims of the Hedonic Treadmill: they experience pleasure and then the feeling fades; so they do more to experience more pleasure, but the feeling fades again. No matter what level they take their pleasure to, it only gives them short-term joy; and they eventually end up back at the same level of happiness where they started. By distinguishing between pleasure and happiness, we can help people find something that lasts, a happiness they can call on in good times and bad. We can help them get off the Hedonic Treadmill and create habits that can productively lead to the happiness they are searching for.

Something to note: pleasure is not inherently bad. Pleasure is actually one part of happiness. The goal is not to avoid pleasure. As a matter of fact we should seek pleasure. The challenge is moderation. How much pleasure is too much and when is pleasure connecting us to happiness vs. disconnecting us from happiness? To answer these questions, we need to know the difference between pleasure and happiness.

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness Hack #71 – Find Ways to Matter

happiness_help_others

We all want to matter and make a difference in the world. The best way to do that is to make an effort to help someone else.  Whether it is a working with a charity, helping a friend move, or just helping a co-worker get through a tough day, being able to make a small impact on someone’s life has a big impact on our happiness and how we feel about ourselves. Because of the chaos of life, we get caught up in our own challenges and what we need from others in order to be successful or happy. We lose track of what really gives us a deep sense of fulfillment and what really makes a difference in our lives. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, we don’t become fulfilled by focusing on and meeting our own needs. Rather than content, that leaves us empty and hollow. We evolved to be social and contributing members to our tribes, so our brains are wired to gain satisfaction when we help others improve their lives.

 

How can you help someone else? How can you reach out and make someone else’s day a little better? Find ways to matter and make a difference for someone else and you will be happier and more successful.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #39 – Include Your Team in the Solution

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

Ray,

Today I spoke with Rachel about the Student Director situation and although it is a curve ball, I’m feeling pretty hopeful about the team finding a solution at our meeting tomorrow. I have also completed all assignments for this week (except for two short quizzes that don’t open until Friday at 12:01 AM) so I am feeling good about academics as well! I am done with my to do list and journaling and I am now off to bed!

Talk to you soon!

Alexia

 

Ray,

We had an interesting first meeting since the news of Student Director leaving. I actually am VERY pleased with the team, their positivity, and the direction we are going from here. I can’t wait to fill you in fully next week!

As for my academic predicament, I have gotten a bit of the run around but now know which classes I have to choose from and who exactly to go to that has the final say if I can substitute or not. (Thankfully I also did extremely well when I took his class so hopefully he will remember me and know that I am a determined student who isn’t trying to cut any corners). So I will be looking at the classes and setting up a time next week to actually meet with him. I also have two appointments set up in the next week with professors who can help guide me and give me knowledge that should help me in my goals to make a decision with CPA vs MBA.

Exercise, journals, and me time are still going well. I have also not felt hot or faint so hopefully my body is recovering well! Sorry for the extra-long email tonight!

Talk to you soon!

Alexia

Lesson: Include your team in the solution.

As a leader, even though you are taking full responsibility for the team, you don’t have to solve every problem yourself. Reach out to the team for answers and for their expertise. Let them step up and create solutions to new challenges. They need the opportunity to lead as well and part of your job as a leader is to know when to be a follower. Reach out to your team for support. Let them solve most of the challenges. You will build a better team with many good leaders and a strong future.

 

Opportunity: Identify what problems you can let your team solve.

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

What do Happiness and Success Have In Common?

 

Happiness and success are connected. They are intertwined in our lives by similar thoughts, feelings, and aspirations.

We have compiled definitions of success from leadership classes, coaching and mentoring sessions, and research. Based on the key words used in each definition, we categorized the definitions into one or more representative concepts. The results were clear: People use similar concepts to define happiness and success, and the two are interrelated. Happiness was mentioned in more than 25% of the definitions of success, and the top two concepts in the definitions of success were the same as the top two concepts in the definitions of happiness.

 

Concept Success Rank Happiness Rank
Contentment (contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment) 1st (tied) 1st
Others (building positive relationships & creating a better world) 1st (tied) 2nd
Achievement (and accomplishing goals) 3rd 4th
Happiness 4th N/A
Wealth (and financial stability) 8th Not Mentioned
Success N/A 7th

 

“Happiness is more than a mere pleasurable sensation. It is a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment.”          

Mathieu Ricard

 

The concept of “Contentment”, which includes contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment, was the top concept mentioned in the definitions of happiness, by a significant margin. It was also one of the most identified concepts in the definitions of success. Different people, in different environments and at different times, all came to similar conclusions when they defined success or happiness. Basically, they all agreed that feeling content, satisfied, and fulfilled in our lives is foundational to being successful and to being happy.

The next highest-ranked concept in the definitions of both success and happiness was “Others”. Others includes building positive relationships with friends and family, contributing to the community, and helping make the world a better place. So most people place a high value on how we help others when they define happiness and success.

The concept of “Achievement”, which includes achieving or accomplishing goals, was the third most mentioned concept in the definitions of success, and was the fourth most mentioned concept in the definitions of happiness. Achievement is part of success, but most people also believe we will be happier if we are achieving.

Interestingly, the concept of acquiring wealth or financial stability was a distant eighth for the definitions of success, only mentioned 6% of the time; and it was not mentioned at all in the definitions of happiness.

When we started this research, our assumptions were that most people would include the concept of acquiring wealth and financial stability in their definitions of success. What we found was that the concept of “Contentment” was significantly more prevalent than the concept of wealth in their definitions. They indicated that money in the bank, a nice house, or a nice car, are all just means to help them feel contented, fulfilled, and satisfied.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.