Happiness and success

Happiness and success

Make yourself happier and you may get richer, as well

July 12, 2007

By DAVE GATHMAN Staff Writer

HAMPSHIRE — If you think financial and business success would bring you happiness, you’ve got it backwards. The latest psychological research concludes that happy people are more likely to succeed, that happiness has little to do with a person’s circumstances in life, and that certain exercises can teach us how to be happier.

Those were the messages Wednesday to the July meeting of Hampshire Area Chamber of Commerce from Dr. Maurine Patten, a St. Charles-based psychologist and life coach whose clients include the entire work force of the St. Charles city government.

Patten explained the latest findings in a field called “positive psychology,” which she said has developed only within the last four or five years as an offshoot of the study of “intellectual intelligence.” Proponents of the latter have argued for a long time that people can polish their skills at dealing with other people, whether that be the way the boss sets the atmosphere of his office each day or the way a wife can learn to make her mother-in-law more agreeable.

“Emotional intelligence will determine as much as 80 percent of your success” in business and work life, compared with 20 percent for old-fashioned IQ-style “intellectual intelligence,” Patten said.

Things we can change

Fortunately, she said, it is easier to improve our emotional intelligence and our sense of happiness than it is to upgrade our IQs. She said research suggests that about 50 percent of one’s happiness level is due to unchangeable things we are born with — a genetically determined ‘setpoint of happiness.” But 40 percent can be changed by the choices we make, our attitudes and skills that can be acquired through practice.

Only 10 percent of our happiness level can be blamed on the circumstances life hands us, she said. “Look at lottery winners. They often end up miserable soon after they’ve experienced a tremendously positive event. And when people undergo a major tragedy, they typically move back to their original level of happiness within two years or so.”

“There’s one very powerful exercise that doesn’t cost a cent but can have a significant impact on our sense of well-being,” Patten told the businesspeople. “As you’re preparing to fall asleep each night, focus your mind on two or three things that went well for you that day or that made you grateful. You will sleep more restfully, be calmer the next day and have more energy.”

Other ways to improve happiness level include exercising; socializing; attending worship services; doing volunteer work; expressing thanks to someone else; doing a hobby that moves you into a period of “engaged flow, where time seems to fly by”; and even just smiling more.