Lately, I’ve been on a happiness-books-binge. That’s to say, I’ve been reading a whole number of books on the topic of happiness. Call it a fascination born from a tough personal year combined with a subtle midlife-crisis, or whatever, but I’ve been fascinated by what research says we need to do (or think) to become happier.The Happiness Track fits into this category, though it’s a little different. That’s because this book isn’t aimed at showing you how to become happier in itself, but at showing you how increased happiness will make you more successful. As the book’s subtitle states: ‘How to apply the science of happiness to accelerate your success’.
The book delivers on this premise. Author Emma Seppälä makes a compelling case that unlike what many of us believe (and are lead to believe) being successful doesn’t make us happier. It’s the other way around: being happier makes us more successful.
She makes a powerful argument against the beliefs in American society and culture especially, that success is the key to happiness, that that success comes at a price (stress, isolation), but if only we keep persevering and focusing on accomplishing even more, we will ultimately become happy.
The Six Keys to Happiness and Success
Instead, she argues, happiness leads to more success and she proposes six keys to get happier and more successful:
- Live and work in the moment: the thought is here to be present instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
- Tap into your resilience: this is about training your nervous system to bounce back from overdrive (stressful situations).
- Manage your energy: the concept of being ‘calm’ with deliberate high-energy moments.
- Do nothing: stimulating your creativity by being idle, diversifying your interests, and making time for fun and play.
- Be good to yourself: exchanging a highly self-critical approach with self-compassion.
- Show compassion to others: don’t ‘look out for number one’ but show kindness and compassion to those around you.
Because I’ve read quite a bit on this topic, not all of this was groundbreaking or even new. That being said, the book is well-structured, well-written and every single statement is backed by research—something that’s not always the case with this topic. I did learn some fascinating new concepts, for instance the importance of the breath and how you can use your breath to calm yourself. The whole chapter on tapping into our resilience was fascinating, since it shows a fresh approach to dealing with stress that’s highly practical.
What’s interesting is that many of these concepts should not be new to us as Christians. Jesus told us worrying wouldn’t change a thing, God gave us the Sabbath to create deliberate rest, and Jesus showed us the ultimate example of compassion and kindness for others.
Sure, some of it may be new, and maybe even sound a little ‘new age’ (whatever that means, but it seems to be the term used most often to describe practices we’re not familiar with and that seem un-Christian to us). The Happiness Track makes a case for breathing exercises and meditation for instance, something some Christians may have an issue with. The author does give alternatives, though, and personally I think meditating on Scripture, breathing prayers, silent prayers, or prayer walks would offer many of the same ‘benefits’ (not that this is the reason to do them, mind you—they’re spiritual practices aimed at building our relationship with God. I’m just saying there may be additional benefits we’re not always aware of).
The Happiness Track is a solid addition to the vast literature on becoming happy, or at least happier, and offers solid insights into the relationship between happiness and success. Recommended reading for anyone interested in changing their path to success.