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The Truth Behind How Happiness Fuels Success

18/06/2014 13:42 BST | Updated 18/08/2014 10:59 BST

I used to believe success led to happiness. I used to think that getting that promotion, winning that pitch, or getting raving reviews from my manager would make me happy. But very quickly, in the first years of my corporate career, I realised how wrong I was to think this.

Sure, I admit they made me feel good. They gave me a sense of achievement, and made me feel like what I was doing was worthwhile. But this feeling was temporary. Then, when I discovered positive psychology, I realised I'd had it all backwards. It's not the success that fuels the happiness, but the happiness that fuels the success.

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It's so easy for us to get wrapped up in our to-do lists, our manic schedules and our ambitious goals. Now none of this is wrong - until you forget what's important. Until you stop taking caring of yourself. Until you realise that none of these things will give you the kind of fulfilment you're looking for. If you want to be productive and get your to-do list sorted, if you want to be energised throughout your manic schedule, and if you want to reach your goals - you need to put your mental and physical health first.

And a big part of this mental health is learning to build happy habits into your daily routine. It's about learning to be more positive, more grateful and more passionate in your day to day life. It's about learning to find the good in the bad. It's about choosing happiness first and foremost. As Arianna Huffington once said, "If you don't like the channel, change it. You have the remote." Remember that you always have the choice to be happy here and now.

And what's that got to do with success? The positive psychology field has been growing over the last one and half decades, collecting numerous pieces of research and case studies which show how happiness is the real fuel to success. Happy people perform better because they care about themselves and engage in more health promoting behaviours. Happy people have better awareness, focus and detail orientation because they've activated the learning centres in their brains through the release of dopamine and serotonin. Happy people are more accurate and quicker in making the right decisions, whilst still being creative and open minded.

So what's not to like about focusing on happiness? On a personal level, you'll feel better as you experience more positive emotions, you'll find it easier to be productive, and you'll learn to see the good in every situation, reducing your stress. On an organisational level, a happy workforce leads to higher levels of profit, lower absenteeism, lower turnover, and increased engagement and performance.

They key here is to educate yourself (and your team at work) how you can build more happy habits into your routine so happiness becomes natural to you. Just like you train your body to stay healthy and fit, you need to train your mind to stay alert and happy.

One thing you can do right away is to say thank you to someone who's helped you out - you could tell them in person, call them up, or send a nice email. You could also start a thank you ritual by finishing your day by writing down three things you were grateful for in that day. Do it for at least 21 days in a row and you'll be building a habit. Gratitude is a great way to start shifting your perspective to a more positive and opportunistic one.

It's this gratitude exercise which shifted my perspective to a more positive one. This gave me the courage to leave my corporate job and create my own business helping individuals, teams and organisations to become happier and hence more successful. I wasn't ready to sit on the sidelines and wait for people to discover the real power that happiness has on success. I wanted to get involved.

And now I'm asking you to do the same. Choose happiness over success. Because the success will follow if you choose to embrace the happy habits.