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The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success Hardcover – January 26, 2016
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From the Publisher
Six Common Myths of Success
By Emma Seppala, author of The Happiness Track
Theories of success permeate our culture. They are ingrained in us from the time we attend elementary school ("Don’t daydream!," "Focus!," "Work harder!"). But while these theories are widely popular, they are, in fact, incredibly flawed. Here are the six major false theories that drive our current notions of success:
1. Never Stop Accomplishing: To achieve more and stay competitive, you've got to quickly move from one to-do to another, always keeping an eye on what's next.
2. You Can't Have Success Without Stress: Stress is inevitable if you want success. Living in overdrive is the inescapable byproduct of a fast-paced life.
3. Persevere At All Costs: Spend every drop of mental energy you have to stay on task despite distractions and temptations.
4. Focus On Your Own Niche: By focusing narrowly on your field and becoming an expert in it, you'll know how to best solve its problems.
5. Play To Your Strengths: Align your work with your talents. Do what you do best and stay away from your weaknesses.
6. Look Out For #1: Look out only for yourself and your interests so you can successfully outperform the competition.
These false theories come at a great cost to our health and well-being. If you've been finding yourself overextended, trapped in a never-ending list of to-do's, out of time for loved ones, feeling guilty for doing things you enjoy, or failing to find meaning or fulfillment in your day-to-day, it's time to get yourself back on The Happiness Track.
“Through her research-backed strategies, Emma Seppälä not only teaches us how to thrive in our chosen profession, but how to stay true to ourselves—and enjoy every moment of the process.” (Susan Cain, co-founder of Quiet Revolution and New York Times bestselling author of Quiet)
“Your ideas about success are probably all wrong—and you need The Happiness Track, Dr. Emma Seppälä’s investigation into the counterintuitive factors that create career and life success. The best news of all? All these skills are well within your grasp.” (Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind)
“Backed by extensive research in psychology and neuroscience, The Happiness Track offers a wealth of insight for changing how we approach our work, our personal lives, and our relationships. It’s a carefully researched, engaging look at how to improve ourselves without losing our authenticity or our sanity.” (Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take)
“Emma Seppälä convinces us that reconfiguring our brain for happiness can change the way our lives unfold and the way we approach success. A worthwhile read for anyone who wants to achieve a successful and fulfilling life.” (Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard Business School, and author of Presence)
“The Happiness Track provides us with a highly-readable, science-backed solution to obtaining sustainable success, the sort of success we are all really striving for, that leaves us fulfilled, happy, and healthy.” (Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., Scientific Director, the Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania)
“Emma Seppälä shows us how we can cultivate a meaningful and successful career and live happy, fulfilled lives by taking care of ourselves first. The world has needed Emma Seppälä’s insight for a long time.” (Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s “Jolly Good Fellow,” and author of the New York Times bestseller Search Inside Yourself)
“Emma Seppälä is on the cutting-edge of crucial new insights and practices that can help us redefine success as she illuminates the ways compassion toward oneself and others is the bedrock of living a life of connection and deep meaning.” (Daniel J. Siegel, MD, author of Mindsight, Brainstorm, and The Mindful Therapist, Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, and Clinical Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine)
“A fast-paced, practical book with profound implications. Remarkably, happiness feels good because it is good for our health, relationships, and work. Drawing on research from neuroscience and psychology, and her own groundbreaking work at Stanford, she gives us six powerful ways to turn greater well-being into greater success.” (Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Hardwiring Happiness)
“This book is a breath of fresh air, helping to bust the myth that we need to do more, better, faster, and more efficiently to be happy.” (Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author of Self-Compassion)
“Emma Seppälä smashes cultural definitions of ‘success’ with a wealth of research-grounded insight about unlocking creativity and a meaningful life. Seppälä is a fast-rising star, and I predict that her work will positively impact countless people for years to come.” (Peter Sims, author of Little Bets and co-founder & CEO of The Silicon Guild)
From the Back Cover
Everyone wants happiness and success, yet the pursuit of both has never been more elusive. As work and personal demands rise, we try to keep up by juggling everything better, moving faster, and doing more. While we might succeed in the short term, this approach comes at a high cost in the long term: it hurts our well-being, our relationships, and—paradoxically—our productivity.
In this life-changing book, Emma Seppälä explains that the reason we are burning ourselves out is that we fall for outdated theories of success. We are taught that getting ahead means doing everything that’s thrown at us with razor-sharp focus and iron discipline, that success depends on our drive and talents, and that achievement cannot happen without stress.
The Happiness Track demolishes these counterproductive theories. Drawing on the latest scientific research on happiness, resilience, willpower, compassion, positive stress, creativity, and mindfulness,
Seppälä demonstrates that being happy is the most productive thing we can do to thrive—whether at work or at home. She shares practical strategies for applying these scientific findings to our daily lives.
A fulfilling, successful, and anxiety-free life is within your reach. The Happiness Track will show you the way.
Happiness Is the Fast Track to Success
“Are you a hard-driving, multitasking, conscientiously striving professional? Then your ideas about success are probably all wrong—and you need The Happiness Track, Dr. Emma Seppälä’s investigation into the counter-intuitive factors that create career and life success. The best news of all? All these skills are well within your grasp.”—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“Emma Seppälä convinces us that reconfiguring our brain for happiness can change the way our lives unfold and the way we approach success. A worthwhile read for anyone who wants to achieve a successful and fulfilling life.”—Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard Business School and author of Presence
“Backed by extensive research in psychology and neuroscience, The Happiness Track offers a wealth of insight on changing how we approach our work, our personal lives, and our relationships. It’s a carefully researched, engaging look at how to improve ourselves without losing our authenticity or our sanity.”—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals
“Through her research-backed strategies, Emma Seppälä teaches us not only how to thrive in our chosen profession, but how to stay true to ourselves—and enjoy every moment of the process.”—Susan Cain, cofounder of Quiet Revolution and New York Times bestselling author of Quiet
“For decades we’ve been tied to theories of success that have burned us out and driven us into the ground—because we don’t know of any alternatives. The Happiness Track provides us with a highly readable, science-backed solution to obtaining sustainable success, the sort of success we are all really striving for, that leaves us fulfilled, happy, and healthy.”—Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., scientific director at the Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania
Top customer reviews
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We grow up believing that we need to find a passion at a young age, focus solely on this passion, and work ourselves to the bone so that we can become masters in this field. We tell ourselves that the stress, anxiety and exhaustion that we feel as the result of our work-horse mentality, only means that we're on the right track.
But Seppala argues that the reverse is true -- that in order to be successful, we need to be happy. In order to be happy, we need to take care of ourselves; focusing on our mental well-being, taking necessary work breaks, and remaining mindful and present throughout our every day lives.
Through scientific studies, anecdotal notes, and interviews, Seppala explains just how happiness lends itself fully to success, and provides concrete methods for improving our personal day-to-day happiness factors.
My colleague loves mindful meditation. He gave me this book as a result of multiple conversations about this practice, and while this book is unlike any that I would normally choose for myself, I truly enjoyed it.
The chapters (and my thoughts on each) are as follows:
1 - Stop Chasing the Future. Seppala notes that we're taught to always be looking forward. We're never able to appreciate our achievements, because as soon as we come close to reaching our goal, we're already looking to make progress on the next goal. We miss out on the good things happening around us now.
She's right. The timelines and deadlines I've arranged for myself throughout the years are innumerable. I'm organized and I like structure, so I set goals, and deadlines in all facets of my life. As soon as I finish one thing, I have ten other tasks lined up. I never feel fully at ease in my day, because I'm always looking to make headway in endeavors I haven't yet reached. It's stressful, and I'm always tired. It's no way to live.
2 - Step Out of Overdrive. Seppala states that we need to slow down. The United States is one of the most stressed out privileged nations in the world. Our anxiety costs us billions of dollars per year. 70% of mental health doctors' visits are due to anxiety and stress. This is unfortunate, but it's not any one person's fault. It's the result of a society that values competition and around-the-clock work over our health and mental well-being.
I make jokes all the time about other people contaminating me with their "contagious" stress. Turns out though -- I'm right! When you're stressed, or anxious, your pheromones project this into the air. Others can literally catch your stress. No wonder Americans suffer from such significant mental health issues! And yet, we stigmatize those who reach out for help with a callous "Buck up. It's not that bad." No. Don't "buck up." Get help. You should feel welcome to take care of yourself without judgment. Our attitudes are conflicting and nonsensical.
Our unhealthy need for competition, and desire to always be "on" leads to absurd amounts of multi-tasking. Because we spend so much time multi-tasking, we make mistakes, and never fully commit to the task at hand. By slowing down, we'll not only make less mistakes in the work we do, but we'll enjoy each task more, and feel less aggravation and stress.
3 - Manage Your Energy. Only put your energy toward things that really matter. If the task doesn't require all of your energy, then don't give it all of your energy. Save your high intensity emotions for things that require high intensity.
4 - Get More Done by Doing More of Nothing. I found this chapter so interesting. Seppala discussed how some of the most influential and innovative people of our time came up with their life-changing ideas. Guess where their bouts of genius didn't occur? At work. In their email. In a staff meeting. Sure -- these people worked hard, and tended to their emails, but they also took time out for themselves. They golfed. They fished. They took vacations. In doing these things, in giving their minds rest, they were able to recharge and rejuvenate. Then, because their brains were awake and fully functioning, they were able to tap into their creativity, and create world-altering inventions. It makes sense.
5 - Enjoy a Successful Relationship With Yourself. Be nice to yourself. We live in a society that demands perfection -- and we're horrible to ourselves when we don't achieve it.
Think about how terrible you feel when someone constantly belittles you. Isn't it awful? So then, why constantly belittle yourself? It's not helpful. Accept your mistakes and your shortcomings, and move on.
Also, allow yourself to indulge in activities that do not play to your strengths. If you're not willing to try anything outside of your comfort zone, you're stifling your creativity.
We've created a society in which failure isn't an option. People are afraid to try new things, or to take risks. Because of this, we don't even know what amazing inventions or ideas we could be missing out on. I'm not preaching at you -- to my own detriment, my least favorite thing in the world is to fail.
6 - Understand the Kindness Edge. This was another of my favorite chapters. As we grow through life, we're taught "Look out for yourself. No one else will. Do what you need to do to get ahead. Don't worry about those you need to trample on your climb to the top."
People who follow this mindset often find themselves burned out and alone. Their learned narcissism slowly starts to make them insane. The result of this is an intense unhappiness, and often a mental breakdown.
Leaders, managers, and bosses who are kind, who take the time to listen, who worry about their employees' success, find their own success. Their employees are loyal to them, and work hard for them. Because their employees are happier to do their jobs, their work often yield incredible results.
Success is the result of kindness. I'm lucky -- because I work for this type of person. Unfortunately - he's the first boss I've had who practices this methodology.
Seppala also introduced different ways to achieve a sense of calm. She discussed different mindful meditation practices, yoga courses, art classes, breathing exercises, and nature retreats.
As someone who is anxious, busy, and feeling "behind" much of the time, this book truly resonated with me. I took from it many different activities that I plan to incorporate into my day-to-day in order to increase my daily happiness factor.
However, while I love the idea of practicing happiness and mindfulness, my concern is -- unless everyone is practicing such, will it really be possible to drive any truly positive change? For example, if you work for a boss who values overtime work, will you get fired if you say, "Nah. I'm taking today off."? I'm not sure.
Either way -- I highly recommend reading this book. For the rest of my reviews, go to readingandmusing.com
So, what is this book about?
Western popular culture teaches us that in order to be successful, we must work without ceasing by using all available means to squeeze the most out of every second, including time management, multi-tasking, and stress management. We are also taught to continuously keep our focus on the next thing: the next step, the next goal, the next week, whatever may be around the corner. So why do many of us feel perpetually tired and discontented no matter how many boxes we check off? Psychologist Emma Seppälä’s research shows that these popular but mistaken notions do not lead to long-term success and in fact often undermine our happiness and well-being. If we want to be truly successful in the long term, there is a lot to say for finding happiness in our present situation. This book explains some effective ways to maximize our happiness now and therefore increase our chances of future success in work and in life.
How difficult is the subject matter?
Seppälä’s credentials may seem intimidating at first glance. Not only is she the Science Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, but also she consults for Fortune 500 leaders, she has given multiple talks at TEDx, Google, Apple, and Facebook, her research has been featured in many well-known periodicals including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and oh, by the way, she can speak French, English, and German. But for someone with such an envy-worthy résumé, Seppälä writes in a conversational style that is refreshingly down-to-earth. (You have to wonder if this is maybe part of the reason she is so widely published and sought-after for speaking engagements.)
In the book’s introduction, the author lists six strategies for attaining success through happiness, and she dedicates one chapter to each strategy. Although she backs up every strategy with research findings, what stand out more are the stories she tells (both from her own experience and from the experience of others) and the practical tips and techniques she shares for how to stop running a rat race and start living a truly happy, fulfilled life. At just over 200 pages, this book is a short, fairly easy read that I think will be well worth your time.
How can this book help me in my daily work?
This book can help a lot with the “daily” aspect of work. Seppälä argues that by dispensing with popular notions of success that actually drain us and retraining ourselves to focus on maximizing our present happiness, we can become more productive and energetic as well as develop a better work/life balance. You may have heard some of this advice before, but if you’re anything like me, sometimes it takes compelling evidence to act on good advice—and The Happiness Track presents plenty of scientific research to back up these strategies.
What’s the main takeaway?
You can increase your chances of long-term success by focusing more on your present happiness.
What are some key nuggets?
Here are some findings that contradict what popular culture teaches us:
• “Paradoxically, slowing down and focusing on what is happening in front of you right now—being present instead of always having your mind on the next thing—will make you much more successful. Expressions like ‘live in the moment’ or ‘carpe diem’ sound like clichés, yet science backs them up robustly. Research shows that remaining present—rather than constantly focusing on what you have to do next—will make you more productive and happier and, moreover, will give you that elusive quality we attribute to the most successful people: charisma.”
• “In our busy and overwhelmed culture, we are often urged to manage time better. Time management apps, blogs, and workshops abound. We believe that if only we could manage our time, we would get more done and be happier. However, there are only so many hours in a day, no matter how neatly scheduled you are. A better focus—and one that few people understand—is energy management.”
• “So while we believe that success stems from staying focused and being productive nonstop without a minute wasted, the truth is that success depends in large part on unfocusing, relaxing rather than working, and finding time to do nothing—opening up the space in our lives that our brains need for creative processes.”
• “… self-compassion is one of the most fundamental determinants of resilience and success. Where excessive self-criticism can leave us weak and distraught, self-compassion is at the heart of empowerment.”
• “The notion of ‘survival of the fittest’—often misattributed to Charles Darwin—was in fact coined by a political theorist, Herbert Spencer, who wanted to justify social and economic hierarchies. Darwin, by contrast, argued that ‘communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.’ Compassion and kindness are the actual cause of our survival over the centuries.”
Just keep in mind that the words “happiness” and “success” mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and The Happiness Track offers only general guidelines for achieving these broad goals. The more effectively you can shut out what the world claims is necessary to be happy and successful and understand what makes you truly happy and what success means to you personally, the more likely you are to become the happiest, most successful version of yourself. I love how Maya Angelou, quoted in Seppälä’s introduction, puts it: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”