Gratitude is the secret to success

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  • Friday, 24 Jun 2016

Studies have shown that being grateful increases happiness and will motivate you to reach your goals.

I WAS doing a corporate workshop on success and motivation and one of the participants asked me during the tea break: “Do you think success leads to happiness? I’m a high achiever and I’ve always prided myself on reaching my business goals but the moment I achieve them, I can’t seem to relax.”

I was already nodding in complete understanding because like many driven people, her victories seemed short-lived without the pleasure of really savouring them because the mind was already moving on to the next set of targets she had set herself, making her successes seem hollow or not great enough.

The problem with chasing success is that the goalpost keeps shifting so success becomes a moving target, as elusive as happiness itself, making it difficult to hold on to. For instance, if you hit your sales target, you’re already wondering if you can hit the next one, so that ‘big moment’ of success seems too fleeting to allow you to sit back and get too comfortable.

It reminds me of a talented singer I once met who put his first album together out of love and passion for singing. The unexpected sales from his album brought sponsors to the table to back his next album. Instead of being really happy and relishing his newfound moment of success, he started to get really nervous if he could fulfil his sponsor’s expectations on the next album.

The second album was made with more financial backing but the process was not as smooth, light-hearted or as fun as the making of his first album because he felt under pressure to ‘perform’. Unfortunately, his second album was deemed a flop in the market, which made him realise that he must never forget why he embarked on this journey to begin with. The moment he lost his passion and enthusiasm for his work, it was reflected in the quality. He learnt the hard way how important it is to be in the right space before even trying to reach for his next success.

The Eastern philosophers have known this simple secret for thousands of years, that whatever you focus on in this present moment, (which is the only moment we ever have that we can exercise any real control over), will ‘become’ you.

So, if you woke up every day feeling incredibly blessed, that means your focus would be on your many blessings and this innate feeling of deep gratitude would shape your entire outlook and attitude in life, making you a mentally stronger, more positive being. Hence, a person who is already feeling happy in the moment tends to effortlessly attract or multiply that feeling of positivity in their life.

Compared to those who are constantly chasing after success feeling like “nothing is enough”, the person filled with gratitude feels he or she is overflowing because they have “so much” in life.

Scientific studies have proven that gratitude improves both your physical and psychological health.

Dr Robert A. Emmons, a researcher who has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being, has confirmed that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression since it decreases a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. There was even a study published in Behavior Research and Therapy which revealed that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Source: Forbes)

Coming back to my workshop participant on whether success leads to happiness as every successful milestone in her life led to the question: “Will I ever be satisfied?” Some of the most fascinating research I’ve come across on this topic shows that it is actually the other way round. Instead of success leading to happiness, it is happiness that leads to success.

In fact, one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success, Shawn Achor, discovered after 12 years of research at Harvard, that the brain ‘in positive’ has greater energy and creativity and is 31% more productive, and incredibly, even 37% better at sales.

This means that the more you focus on your current level of happiness, the more motivated you will likely be to reach for your goals. Goals will always be important but the quality of your attitude is even more important in pulling them off. Happiness begins with you, and once you have the ability to harness it, other gifts flow your way. So start paying close attention to your mental health.

Perhaps, it’s time to download that free gratitude journal you’ve been thinking about or to start teaching yourself some basic meditation tools to help the mind live in the present moment because the more positive you are, the more successful you can become to truly make your mark in this life, and to make your successes really mean something to you.

Jojo Struys is a HRDF-approved corporate trainer and motivational speaker who has conducted workshops for various MNCs in stress management and the power of positivity to encourage happier, more productive employees in the workplace. You can share your comments or contact Jojo at

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Opinion , Central Region , jojo struys


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