8 Ways You're Ruining Your Own Chance At Happiness

The pace of life today doesn’t make the pursuit of happiness an easy one. The idea that success comes first and happiness comes somewhere further down the road is too deeply ingrained, despite the fact that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It leaves many of us constantly on the lookout for happiness hacks and ways to be happier, not realizing that the real solution is kicking mentalities and habits that get in the way of our happiness.

In The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success , Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., the director of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, tackles the idea that happiness is a byproduct of success. Using scientific research, she debunks the pervasive mindset and shows that allowing yourself to be happy now can actually make you more successful.

Seppälä makes a powerful and eye-opening case. Not only does she force us to face how we interfere with our own happiness — and subsequently our success — she provides practical information to help us improve our ways.

Here are eight common behaviors that make it hard for us to be happy, based on The Happiness Track.


1. You’re Always Focusing On Next Steps

The way we view success is heavily tied to accomplishments. We create five-year plans, to-do lists, and more, always looking ahead to the point in which we finally get to be happy. The problem with this approach, though, is that we’re not happy now. Seppälä emphasizes the importance of learning to live in the moment; studies show that it actually makes you more productive and even charismatic.

2. You’re Trying To Do Everything

As technology advances, so does our ability to do seemingly a million things at once. Unfortunately, it turns out that multitasking isn’t that great of a skill to use. Research has found that it has a negative impact on your memory and concentration. “Multitasking, instead of helping us accomplish more things faster, actually keeps us from doing anything well,” writes Seppälä. Yikes.

3. You’re Constantly Checking Your Email

Email has become a vital part of the workplace, but it has its drawbacks, too. Not only does it make it too easy to bring work home with you, it has been shown to increase our stress. I’d say that sending more adorable cat GIFs is the solution, but since email also reduces our focus, I don’t see this strategy helping with that.

4. You’re Overworking Yourself

“All too often in our culture, we believe that … we can only be successful by straining: we have to give our all every minute of the day, exerting all the intensity we can muster,” writes Seppälä. She argues that overworking ourselves only leads to burnout. The idea that hard work pays off is true, but only to an extent.

5. You’re Get Caught Up Worrying Too Much

As a worrier myself, I know how hard it can be to kick the habit, but the book makes a strong case for why we should work on it. All that anticipation of negative events dials up our stress levels, causing a physiological response that leaves us fatigued. When we’re calmer and better rested, we can be more productive. Doesn’t that sound nice?

6. You’re Always Thinking About Work

Working constantly and being stressed is often seen as a badge of honor in our culture. Too many of us can’t put the psychological distance we need between us and our work. The crazy thing is that it would actually help our performance. It turns out that detaching lets us recover, making us more focused and productive.

7. You Don’t Allow Yourself To Be Idle

As mentioned above, our brains need time to recharge. When we only do “productive” activities or projects that require focus, we don’t give ourselves time to just be. Contrary to the saying, idle hands are not the devil’s workshop, as Seppälä points out. Research backs her up: Engaging in relaxing activities can make us more creative and innovative in our problem-solving.

8. You Try To Play Only To Your Strengths

To be successful, we’re taught that we should play to our strengths. The problem with this approach, argues Seppälä, is that we become too critical of ourselves. Not surprisingly, this is hard on our psychological well-being and even harms our performance, from our decision-making to our ability to bounce back from failure. We’re better off if in the long run when we believe that we can develop our talents and show ourselves compassion.

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