Studies have shown that when we are happy at work, we are smarter, more motivated, more competitive and, thus more successful. While it’s widely known that overall fulfillment allows us to enjoy more meaningful relationships and better health, few understand that it impacts a paycheck… significantly.

Nose to the Grindstone: The Correlation Between Success and Happiness

There is a big misconception among many corporations and educational institutions that success leads to happiness.  Often, we tell ourselves that once we get the promotion we want, the pay raise we feel we deserve or the recognition we desire, happiness will follow.

Until recently, it was widely thought that focusing on productivity and performance, even to the detriment of our well-being, would lead us to become more successful and, therefore happier. Everyone has heard the phrase, “Keep your nose to the grindstone.”

Related: 5 Ways to Get More Respect at Work

However, recent research in psychology and neuroscience has proven that fulfillment and happiness are a key ingredient to a successful career.  Optimism fuels performance and achievement which, in turn allows us to advance monetarily.

In simper terms, happiness is not a random event in the distant future.  Treat it as such and not only will it hinder your ability to succeed, but it will also prevent you from living life to the fullest.

Dopamine, Serotonin and the Brain’s Reaction

Countless studies have shown that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best when they are in a positive mindset.  When we feel optimistic about our future, dopamine and serotonin are released in our brains.

In conjunction with providing a heightened sense of well-being, dopamine and serotonin allow us to more rapidly organize new information and become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving.

Specifically, a clear head allows for 100% engagement.  Conversely, perseverating on your problems exhausts most of your capacity for attention which drains energy as well as performance levels.  It’s no secret that, as a group low performing employees take home sparse paychecks.

Consider the following:

  • A recent study at the University of Toronto found that our mood can change what we see.  When shown pictures with multiple images, those in negative moods could not process as much as their positive counterparts. Positive emotions expand our peripheral line of vision.
  • People who were asked to think about the happiest day of their life prior to a formal exam scored higher than those simply given the test.

Related: Ways Millionaires Approach Their Careers

Exercises

An individual who can learn to control their thoughts will maintain control of their happiness and, thus career potential.  While doing so is easier said than done (it takes significant practice and discipline), below are three easier exercises that could begin making a difference today.

  • Think of your brain as a computer disk with a finite amount of space. Consider your surroundings, inner monologue, other people in the room and your desired task as small files that quickly fill that disk to capacity.

The more stored on that disk, the less available room there is for intelligently evaluating information and making rational decisions. Thus, it comes useless to allow that disk to be filled with thoughts of self-doubt as you are throwing away valuable space.

  • Know what you stand for. Define what your core beliefs are always remember to live in the present, resolve with the past and create your ideal future.
  • Keep healthy. Success requires not only our minds, but our body, energy and spirit as well.  Eat well, exercise and when necessary, practice some form of mediation.  Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex.

In the End 

Happiness is more than a good feeling-it is also a crucial ingredient of our success.  Allow your brain the capacity to feel positive and heightened creativity, resilience and intellectual capacity will quickly follow.

If you wish to increase the number on your paycheck, choose happiness as one of your definitive goals. Then, place all your energy, will power and effort towards chasing that goal.

Related: 5 Factors That Make a Great Boss

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