Conventional wisdom has long stated that success that makes people happy. But according to new research, conventional wisdom is wrong. Happiness, rather than working hard, is the real key to success.
A review of 225 studies in the current issue of Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), has found that cheerful people are more likely to try new things and challenge themselves, which reinforces positive emotion and leads to success in work, good relationships and strong health.
The research, led by author Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky, of the University of California, suggests that happy individuals are predisposed to seek out and undertake new goals in life and this reinforces positive emotions,
What's more, chronically happy people are in general more successful across many life domains than less happy people and their happiness is in large part a consequence of their positive emotions rather than vice versa.
The research examined the connections between desirable characteristics, life successes and well-being of over 275,000 people.
Happy people are more likely to achieve favourable life circumstances, said Dr. Lyubomirsky, and "this may be because happy people frequently experience positive moods and these positive moods prompt them to be more likely to work actively toward new goals and build new resources.
"When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic and others find them likable and sociable. Happy people are thus able to benefit from these perceptions."
Lyubomirsky and co-authors Dr Laura King, of University of Missouri and Dr Ed Diener, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The Gallup Organization argue that much of the previous research on happiness presupposed that happiness followed from success and accomplishments in life.
"We found that this isn't always true," said Lyubomirsky. "Positive affect is one attribute among several that can lead to success-oriented behaviours. Other resources, such as intelligence, family, expertise and physical fitness, can also play a role in people's successes."
Furthermore, she said, evidence from the cross-sectional studies confirm that a person's well-being is associated with positive perceptions of self and others, sociability, creativity, prosocial behaviour, a strong immune system, and effective coping skills.
But she added that happy people are also capable of experiencing sadness and negative emotions in response to negative events, which is a healthy and appropriate response.
"Our review provides strong support that happiness, in many cases, leads to successful outcomes, rather than merely following from them," said Lyubomirsky.
"Happy individuals are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and even a long life."