The Science of Happiness: Six Myths of Success

This is part one, in a two part post, about a great book I recently finished.

Are you happy? Could you be happier? Let science explain.

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The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success by Emma Seppälä, PhD has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I don’t think I was ready for what it contained. I believed that whatever I was going to learn, I would be nervous to put into practice. Sometimes it sucks to have all the answers but you remain completely unsure of what to do with them. There are no excuses other than the obvious indecisiveness, which is hardly an excuse, but also a very real one for me personally.

I’m currently going through some major life shifts and I wanted to get a better grasp on what I should pay attention to. I could use some sound advice from an expert, on where to put my thoughts and energy. So I turned to this book. It did not disappoint, which is why I felt inspired to share it as a resource for my blog.

The author, Emma Seppälä, is the science director of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. This book is the result of personal and combined research to scientifically study the link between happiness and success. The book ultimately demonstrates, using vast amounts of research and evidence that,

“Happiness is not the outcome of success, but it’s precursor.” (pg. 7)

So, before you dedicate your life to being successful, happiness should be the first goal. When put so simply, it sounds easy and intuitive, but I know it’s not.

In the book’s introduction, Seppälä refers to specific ‘Myths of Success’ that are pervasive in American culture. For example, the belief that stress is inevitable to be successful, or that you should only focus on becoming an expert in your field in order to be the best. She concludes that these myths ultimately “harm your ability to connect productively with others, impede work creativity, diminish energy and ability to perform at our best, [and] make you less resilient in the face of challenges or failure” (pg. 6).

Damn that’s a lot of bad outcomes when happiness isn’t a first priority!

I will admit that every single myth she explains, to a degree I have subscribed to. Especially the “persevere at all costs” mentality that convinces you to expend all mental and physical energy until the job or goal is complete. Except spoiler alert: rarely is there ever an actual end.

Without giving too much of the book away, here are the 6 Myths of Success.

#1: You can never stop accomplishing. You will be successful only when you achieve more.

#2: Success does not come without stress or burning out.

#3: Success will only come if you persevere at all costs. You must expend all your mental, physical and emotional energy to get ahead.

#4: To be successful, you must focus on your niche and be the best. Immerse yourself in one area, become an expert, and success will follow.

#5: Only play to your strengths and align all your work with your natural talents.

#6: Successful people look out for themselves. Outperform everyone and you’ll be on top.

Seppälä breaks them down in better detail than I could while also elaborating on how each one came to be. She discusses why American career culture puts an incredible amount of emphasis on burn out as a testament to success and how competition rather than collaboration, creeped into the American dream.

The following six chapters go on to scientifically break down why these myths developed, with an helpful dose of How To Not Subscribe to them. This is when Seppälä takes the reader through the 6 Keys to Happiness and Success.

In part 2 of this blog post, I’ll be sharing those. I plan to get that out in a week. Until then, think about these myths. Take a moment to reflect or journal about it. Is there a myth that you subscribe to more or less? How do you think it impacts your day to day happiness?

I love books that inspire me to modify how I look at my life and it’s why I was so compelled to share this. If you feel like you’re dying to learn more, buy the book. Maybe even purchase two copies and share with a friend.

This is one of those books where quotes pop out and you feel like the author understands exactly what you’ve dealt with. You might mark it up or pass it along, but you will very likely learn something new.

Feel free to connect with me on social media and reach out to let me know what you think. Kudos if you share your thoughts on how you have/have not subscribed to these myths. I really enjoy talking about these topics.




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