Happiness: The leading indicator of success?

Recently, while I was having lunch with a friend, she asked me if I’d noticed any similarities among the people I’ve been coaching. I hadn’t considered the idea before, and as I thought about it, I identified three distinct characteristics that the majority of my clients share:

  1. They’re at the top of their game in their careers
  2. They believe increasing their success will bring greater happiness
  3. They move at warp speed and don’t stop to celebrate their successes

“Increasing success” has a different meaning for each of my clients, but generally it involves advancing their career to the next level—progressing within their current company, making a move to another company, or starting a business of their own.

As with any life transition, each “increasing success” brings with it a list of action items and strategies for realizing the goal. What I’ve found with my clients, however, is that because they’re moving so quickly, as they hit major milestones between our sessions (which is great), they fail to recognize the significance of those milestones. They just move the goalpost to the next, loftier objective.

When you don’t stop to celebrate your impressive accomplishments, you fail to reap an important benefit: feeling joy. Over time, this behavior will make you feel unfulfilled, unsuccessful, and unhappy (no matter how successful you appear to the outside world).

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shares over 10 years of research about why we need to reverse the formula for success—that is, happiness precedes success, as opposed to success driving happiness. When people (or companies) put happiness on the far side of success, the results always suffer.


The strategic plans I create with my clients always include celebrating their successes along the way. I have found that this simple step creates incredible momentum and excitement (and happiness!), which fuels my clients to even greater success.

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