Who doesn’t want to feel happier? Who doesn’t want to feel greater contentment and fulfillment?
That’s why I often write about the habits of remarkably happy people, about what happy people do more often, about about things you should stop doing so you can be happier at work.
Here’s another strategy: The “no pain, no gain” approach to happiness.
According to research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, people who work hard at improving a skill or ability may experience stress in the moment — but experience greater happiness both on a daily basis and over the long term.
“No pain, no gain is the rule when it comes to gaining happiness from increasing our competence at something,” says Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. “People often give up their goals because they are stressful, but we found that there is benefit at the end of the day from learning to do something well. And what’s striking is that you don’t have to reach your goal to see the benefits to your happiness and well-being.”
In short, mastering a new skill — or striving to accomplish a huge goal — will definitely mean more stress now… but it also means more happiness later. If you are willing to push through a bit of added stress in the short term, you can experience huge gains in happiness over the long term.
Which, research aside, makes sense. Learning anything new — trying anything new — is stressful. It’s uncomfortable. It’s hard.
And that’s why, as I explain in my new book, “The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win”, incredibly successful people set a goal… and then focus all their attention on the process necessary to achieve that goal.
They set a goal and then, surprisingly, they forget the goal.
Sure, the goal is still out there. But what they care about most is what they need to do today—and when they accomplish that, they feel happy about today. They feel good about today.
And they feel good about themselves, because they’ve accomplished what they set out to do today… and that sense of accomplishment gives them all the motivation they need to do what they need to do when tomorrow comes—because success, even tiny, incremental success, is the best motivational tool of all.
When you savor the small victories, you get to feel good about yourself every day, because you no longer feel compelled to compare the distance between here and there. You don’t have to wait for “someday” to feel good about yourself; if you do what you planned to do today, you’re a winner.
So create a process that helps you learn a new skill. Create a process that helps you tackle a big challenge.
Then get started.
It won’t be fun in the moment… but it will make you a lot happier over the long term.
And a lot more successful — in whatever way you choose to define “success.”