Success follows happiness, which follows gratitude

If you’re like many millions of people, you may believe that if you work hard, you’ll be successful, and that will lead to happiness. I’d like to thank Linda Pizzitola of Kauai Design Graphics and the YWCA for sending information that indicates that that thinking may be backwards.

She referred me to an article written by Kathy Caprino on the Forbes website about hearing a Ted Talk given by Shawn Achor, Harvard professor and author of “The Happy Secret to Better Work” and “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work.”

He states that most people think, “If I can just find that great job, or win that next promotion, lose those ten pounds, or (fill in the blank), then happiness will follow.” But he and other researchers have found that, “Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.”

Seventy-five percent of job successes are predicted by:

1. Optimism … the belief that our behavior will matter and make a difference.

2. Social connection …the wider our base of friends, colleagues and general support, the more successful we can be.

3. How we perceive stress … as a challenge or as a threat

He states that if we take five steps a day, for 21 days (the time it takes to break or make a habit) we can reprogram our brains to become more positive.

If you want to that is. How many of us know people who love to list their troubles, and see themselves as victims? It may even take a while for some people to imagine that they can become positive thinkers, because they have been negative thinkers for so very long. In some families happiness is considered frivolous. To negative thinkers I say, if that’s working for you, great, if not, 21 days in a lifetime is a blink of an eye, and worth the investment. Be the scientist. Try them. Notice how you feel before the 21 days, and after. But continue for 21 days and don’t give up. Find a friend to do it with you … or more…your class, your book club, your office workers, your family. Widen that social connection. The Five Steps:

1) “Bring gratitude to mind — Write down three NEW things that you are grateful for each day

2) Journal — About a positive experience you’ve had recently for 2 minutes once a day

3) Exercise — Engage in 15 minutes of mindful cardio activity. It helps care for the brain.

4) Meditate — Watch your breath go in and out for 2 minutes a day, to stop the ADHD culture we are creating of being “on” all the time.

5) Engage in a random, conscious act of kindness — Write a two-minute positive email thanking a friend or colleague, or compliment someone you admire on social media.”

Anchor states that when people do these steps for 21 days they will begin to see a lasting shift in their mindset toward more positivity. He suggests that leaders and companies begin to educate their employees on how to raise positivity in the workplace, creating social engagements, and authentically praising individuals.

Teachers can do the same in their classrooms. Every year the award winning teachers are ones who compliment and reinforce their students, and help them engage in work together as teams working on projects that they feel make a difference.

Here are some excerpts from Shawn Achor’s Ted Talk, called: “The Happy Secret to Better work”: The external world can predict only ten percent of our long-term happiness. Ninety percent of our long term happiness is predicted by how our brains processes our world, and it can be changed by using the above five steps.

A brain in positive mode is 31 to 37 percent more successful than a brain that is in neutral, stress, or negative mode. Intelligence, and creativity rise. Doctors diagnose quicker and are more accurate. Happiness releases dopamine which causes your mind to work harder, faster, more intelligently.

I also researched the power of gratitude to create happiness and 62.5 million hits came up. By now, most people have discovered that feeling grateful can cause us to feel better within minutes. Research shows that it can also keep us healthier. Those who kept a gratitude journal had fewer trips to the doctor, and slept better than those who didn’t or who kept a journal of what bothered them.

May this help empower you to be happier and more successful. Just imagine how it would feel if everyone on Kauai was happy and successful. Our human race is just getting better and better. The tools are more available, and hope is high.


Hale ‘Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kauai, go to


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