Success means different things to different people. Money? Fame? Power? Saving more? An expensive car? A nicer home?
If you’re a business owner, success may be hitting a certain revenue target or having a certain number of employees. If you’re a professional, it may mean getting a promotion or achieving your bonus targets for the year. You may also have personal definitions of success like owning or renovating a home, providing for your family or taking a dream vacation.
Most of us follow a formula for success that says something like, “If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And, if I’m more successful then I’ll be happier.” But, in reality, this formula keeps you feeling unsuccessful because each time you reach your goal, you set a new one. You hit your revenue target, now you have to reach for a higher one. You got a promotion, now you have to reach for the next promotion. You secured that dream client, now you need another dream client. You got the car you wanted, now you have to aim for a better one. When happiness is on the other side of success, your brain never allows you to get there because it continues to set higher and higher aims and aspirations for you to achieve.
I know that I suffer from this kind of unhappiness. I’ve defined it as “striving unhappiness”. If I do more and strive more I’ll get to some level of success I deem worthy of being happy. But, each year, I wonder to myself, “What did I do last year?” and I often reply to myself, “Not very much.” When in truth, I’ve accomplished a great deal. I’m just not able to acknowledge it. For me, my brain believes that happiness is on the other side of the next success.
Strengthening Your Positivity Advantage
Fortunately, there is hope. And, being the beginning of the year now is an ideal time to shift from “striving unhappiness” to what’s known as a “positivity or happiness advantage”. This positivity advantage helps recalibrate the brain’s need for striving. How it works is if you can raise your level of positivity in the present your brain experiences a “positivity advantage”. Research shows that this positivity advantage means your brain performs much better than if it is stressed or it is negative. In a positive frame of mind, you’re more creative, energetic and intelligent. Amazing!
Success in 2019 may involve strengthening your positivity advantage rather than aspiring for more. Strengthening your positivity advantage means staying positive in the present moment regardless of what’s going on.
There are several ways you can continue to train your brain to become and stay more positive. In turn, allowing you to work and live more optimistically and feel more successful.
Here are three things to focus on in 2019 to enhance your “positivity advantage”.
1. Write Down Three New Accomplishments Each Day
Most professionals and business owners keep a “to do” list. It is a list of things you need or want to get done to achieve success in your business and your life on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. This list is often a reminder of what you haven’t done or accomplished. While I believe to do lists are essential to unclutter your brain so you can focus, they can also be happiness stealers. Perpetually focused on what you haven’t accomplished means you stay stuck in “striving unhappiness.” You’ll be happy when you get certain things done.
Since I work with people and their money, many people see happiness on the other side of saving more or having more. They’ll be happy when they’ve saved more or when they’ve paid off their debt or when their investments continue to grow rather than fluctuate.
To help shift from striving to positivity, one thing you can do is close each day writing down three new daily accomplishments. Celebrating the day’s success, regardless of how small, will help train your brain to look for the positive first and help you feel more successful. Acknowledging that you’ve done the laundry and now have clean clothes to wear or acknowledging that you paid your power bill and continue to have lighting are small but worthwhile actions.
2. Weekly or Monthly Positive Journal
Many business owners and professionals have some form of monthly reporting. This is often focused on financial results like revenue achieve compared to targets and, if a service company, accounts receivable outstanding. Achieving financial targets is often a proxy for determining a company’s overall success. Focus on numbers, both for business and personally, is important as I believe numbers tell a story and they can reveal a lot about behaviours. But, it’s not the only story.
Looking back each week or month and journaling on the positive experiences you’ve had with clients, colleagues, contemporaries, friends or family will allow your brain to relive moments that make you most happy. Taking time to relive those most enjoyable moments will assist in enhancing your positivity advantage and feelings of success.
3. Prioritize Self Care
Self-care is any activity that you do to take care of your mental, physical and emotional health. Although it’s a simple concept, it’s something business owners and professionals often overlook in the pursuit of pleasing others and achieving success. Good self-care is the key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also the key to a good relationship with yourself and others.
Making a commitment to a mindfulness or meditation practice is good for your mental health. It helps your brain to focus and get over societal pressure to do more and more as a measure of success.
Staying dedicated to exercise helps you take care of your physical self and teaches your brain that your behaviours matter. And, when it comes to being successful with your money, your behaviours matter a great deal.
To enhance your emotional health, each morning when you open your email, endeavour to write one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social network. This conscious act of kindness will help train your brain to focus on the people that make the journey enjoyable and, ultimately, successful.
Of course, how you define success is completely up to you. Choosing to enhance your positivity advantage will have an impact on your wellbeing, your work, your life and, most excitingly, how successful you feel.