Category: Happiness

Rearranging the Happiness Formula

Jane McGonigal

Time to read: 3 mins


I recently watched a TED talk where Jane McGonigal (illustrated above) tried to encourage the audience to spend more time playing video games despite the reputation that video games are a waste of time.  Jane went through some of the benefits of video games and backed these up with solid examples.


The talk reminded me of some of the points on happiness in a book I recently read called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.


If having fun (i.e. making yourself happy) is usually something that is gets put off till a later time because it’s second priority to achieving whatever goal you have set for yourself, then you should continue to read this article.


If indulging in fun activities before success sometimes brings on feelings of guilt or time wasted (a common sentiment among those who are driven to be successful) again you should continue to read this article.


How we achieve happiness are most likely to based off either

  • What we have been told or
  • What we have experienced


Let’s look at the two briefly..


What you have been told

Before I began to answer the question on achieving happiness, it first lead me to think about the way we may have been conditioned to answering the question.  In school I was taught the familiar formula for happiness is:


“Work hard now and once you are successful THEN you will be happy”


I even have had the same formula repeated to me by my parents, with the emphasis on being successful creates happiness.  To some extent the same message is all around us in some very subtle ways.  As an example the way superannuation works abides by the same formula.  Work hard now and be comfortable later on in retirement.


The other alternative is to answer the question from your own experience.


What you have experienced

Would sitting down for two hours to watch Star Wars Episode 7 make you happy? (great movie by the way).  How about a lunch with a friend or colleague at 8 bit, (great burgers by the way)  Personally, I would love to binge out and play Fallout 4 for the next 12 hours.  Whatever it is that make you happy, you know from your own experience that you can have it right now, even if it is for a short time.


Now to be fair, just as we have subtle examples of ‘work hard now and be happy later’  there are just as many (if not more) examples of being happy now with no regards for the future.  Buying and spending excessively off credit cards is one example.


Perception of time spent

There is nothing wrong with spending time on these activities, in fact it should be encouraged.  If you understand how the spending time in leisurely activities will massively increase the chances of success in all areas of your life.   For those of you who are focused on setting and achieve goals; it is not time wasted, but time needed to make ourselves more efficient and effective while perusing the best versions of ourselves.


Why ‘work hard now, be happy later’ does not work

While the ‘work hard now to be successful and be happy later’ is the message that has been common among us, it doesn’t quite fit with the research that has been done on happiness and success.  IF anything this approach has a tendency to reduce our chances of being successful…



Understanding the benefits of happiness

When you are happy it not only make us feel good but has other benefits that most of us are complete unaware of.  When we experience feeling of joy, gratitude, serenity, hope, awe, love or inspiration dopamine’s are released into the brain that help to:


  • Organise new information
  • Store information for longer periods
  • Retrieve information faster
  • Think quickly and more creatively


When your brain has improved the function in these area we are better equipped to perform complex analysis and problem solving; which are the key processes to innovation.


Take a few seconds to think of the alternative.  Look at the bullet points above and imagine someone who is neutral or even unhappy.   What internal resources do they have at their disposal? And how easily can they be accessed?   The answer is not many and not easily.


Rearranging the formula

Looking at just some of the benefits that happiness brings and undoubtedly how it help fuel your success, the formula for success needs to be rearrange. Clearly…


It is more efficient to have happiness AS A PRECURSOR to success.


Happiness now is a better formula.  An easier way to understand the concept is to visualise our solar system.  Like planets orbiting around the sun, success orbits around happiness.


Happiness like the sun is at the center of all other things we have in our lives, happiness existed before we were ever successful, it is bigger and more important than success and it is the single most important source of life and energy.