Photo Credit: Abigail Keenan,

We’ve been taught that we can set goals and achieve them by working hard. For example, if you want to be accepted into a good college you work hard in high school to get good grades. If you want a rewarding job, you work hard in college so you can graduate and get your degree. If you want to buy a house, you work hard, save your money, and avoid spending on unnecessary items. However, most of us can’t attain happiness when we set it as a goal!

Why? How could I say that happiness can’t be achieved when it goes against everything we’re taught? This can’t be right.

First off, consider that being happy is a moral imperative in our society. To make friends, you must be happy when interacting socially. If you’re moody or negative, you won’t have many friends. People are drawn to happiness and it makes the world a better place. Just look at the dictators and tyrants, they’re not motivated by happiness, but rather fear; they inflict misery and repression on their citizens.

To summarize, how happy you are has a significant effect, not only on you, but others. This doesn’t mean it’s your job to ensure that everyone’s happy. But it does mean that if you choose to be happy, you’re making the best decision for you AND others.

So, what does this mean for happiness as a goal?

The Misconception that Success Leads to Happiness 

What happens if you set a goal and you don’t achieve what you set out to do? What happens when you don’t get good grades and can’t get into a good college? What happens when you can’t save up enough money to buy a house to start a family? Although you had set goals in mind, you’re unable to reach them.

If you equate success with happiness, then you’re in trouble. If you believe that getting good grades, getting into college, or buying a house will fill you with happiness, then you’ll be unable to ever be happy.

The reasons are — in the above scenario — reaching one goal meant you’re also achieving another goal. Every time you were successful, you had to put in renewed effort into reaching another success. Getting good grades meant you’d get into college. Graduating college meant you’d get a good job, etc. etc. Yet, if happiness occurs when you’re successful, then when would you be happy? According to the example above, you’re never happy because reaching one goal means there’s another goal you must work on achieving. All this means that happiness is just “over the rainbow” and, thus, always just out of reach.

Herein is where the misconception exists: if success leads to happiness, then happiness is always going to be elusive. In contrast, research is excitingly revealing that happiness LEADS to success via positive thinking. If you set out each day focusing on happiness by cultivating optimism and thinking positively about what you can achieve, then you’ll experience increased success in your life.

How does happiness lead to success? Research shows that happy people are more productive. Happy people feel less stress; which affects the brain function. A less-stressed brain’s more available and can engage more fully in tasks. These effects are known as the “Happiness advantage.” When you focus your brain on positive thinking, your brain’s more creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and efficient while you work.

Happiness is not a goal. Happiness is what energizes us to achieve and work towards our goals. Happiness not only allows you to live a good life, but also a successful life.

I’d love to get to know you better. Please reach out to me to start a conversation about how you can find your end of the rainbow:

Photo Credit: Abigail Keenan,