Getting better at getting better is what Rise With Drew is all about.

Monday through Thursday, we explore ideas from authors, thought leaders, and exemplary organizations. On Friday, I share something about myself or what we at PCI are doing in our quest to earn a spot on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Two years ago, I participated in philosopher Brian Johnson’s Heroic Coach Program. The culmination of the program is a deep dive into what Brian calls the “fundamentals”: sleeping, eating, moving, breathing, focusing, celebrating, and prospering. Today we take a look at prospering.  

Brian tells us we’ve got it backward. Growing up, we’re taught to focus on being successful. Because once we’re successful, then we’ll be happy.

I’ll be happy when… I get this specific job. Or, I’ll be happy when… I get promoted. Or, I’ll be happy when… I make this amount of money.

A decade of research shows we’ve got it wrong. In actuality: Happiness precedes and predicts success. The happier we are, the more likely we will be successful.

“The rat-racer” is what Harvard Professor and author Tal Ben-Shahar calls the “I’ll be happy when” mindset. “The rat racer’s illusion is that reaching some future destination will bring lasting happiness; he does not recognize the significance of the journey,” he tells us.

There are two other traps Tal warns we can fall into. “The hedonist’s illusion is that only the journey is important. “The nihilist, having given up on both the destination and the journey, is disillusioned with life.

“The rat racer becomes a slave to the future; the hedonist, a slave to the moment; the nihilist, a slave to the past.

Yet, who hasn’t thought: “Wow, if I won the lottery, my life would be perfect!” And sure enough, lottery winners experience a spike in happiness. Before long, however, their level of happiness returns to what it was before winning. “Hedonic adaptation” is what scientists call this reality: External accomplishments of any type do not typically change our long-term level of happiness.  

But, neither do setbacks. Even in extreme cases. Researchers have also studied paraplegics. After an initial dip in overall life satisfaction resulting from their new condition, their happiness rebounds to what it was before their paralysis.

The answer to the question: Who’s happier: lottery winners or paraplegics? is neither. They are both equally happy.

Which isn’t to say we can’t impact our overall level of happiness. One big driver is gratitude, which we’ll look at next Friday. But another proven strategy to increase our happiness is to invest in our learning and development. As humans, we never get bored with growth. Flourishing never gets old.

More next week!


Reflection: Which trap am I most likely to fall into the rat-racer, the hedonist, or the nihilist?

Action: Discuss with my spouse, a friend, or a colleague.

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