Results do not lead to happiness : happiness leads to results

Life is finite. You cannot deny the fact that at some time your time will run out. What motivates you to get up out of bed each day – is it to pay the bills or are you engaged in doing something you truly believe in and value? I recently read a book “The End of Procrastination: How to stop postponing and live a fulfilled life” by Petr Ludwig. This book challenged me on many levels. Firstly, the impact of vision on motivation.

You will be familiar with the carrot and stick approach to motivation – reward for positive behaviour, stick for bad behaviour. A useful approach for many particularly during the industrial revolution years and many an employer since.

The downside of this extrinsic motivation approach, however, is that it makes people do things they feel they are obliged to do. The imaginary stick hanging over us can lead us to resent what we do and to feelings of despair, which can be contagious to those around us.

Another alternative to this is intrinsic goal-oriented motivation; creating a future goal and working towards this. Although goal driven motivation can positively impact productivity, it does not lead to long term happiness[1]. Why not? With the setting of goals in and of themselves, there is a feeling of discontent with your current situation until that goal is achieved. Happiness is delayed until you have that goal in your hand (so to speak). Upon achievement of that goal, you will experience a sense of joy, euphoria, but this is temporary. Once you have that new car, in a week, month, it becomes just your car. In order to repeat the high you felt when you were first handed the keys, you set yourself another slightly bigger goal to achieve and the cycle continues.

Is there an alternative? Yes, intrinsic journey-based motivation. How is this different? The focus is on the journey not the destination and it centres around your personal vision. Your vision answers the question of how you would most like to spend your time in life, what you see as your purpose. You can then focus on actions that support this, not results in and of themselves. This enables you to stay happy/content in the present, knowing that what you are doing is in alignment with what you want to be doing and where you are wanting to head. This in turn positively impacts your brain – your creativity and memory, enabling you to learn and therefore perform better. This positive feedback loop can leave you feeling profoundly in tune with your life’s purpose and hence more motivated.

This approach is the direct opposite to the classic method of thinking which says, “First results, then happiness”. Albert Schweitzer, winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, proclaimed “Success is not the key to happiness. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”.

So I ask; do you have a clear sense of why you are doing what you are doing? Have you thought about what success would look like for you? If you were to wake up tomorrow with a magic wand and could create any possible situation with no limitations on your resources, what would life look like for you that day, by the end of that year, in 5 years’ time?

Having a clear vision can have a significant impact on life at work – both for employees and employers. When employees’ personal visions are in alignment with the company’s vision the result is more motivated employees who bring higher energy into the office, improved productivity and are more loyal to the company. As Simon Sinek said “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat and tears”.

If you would like to explore this concept further, receive an outline of how to create your own personal vision or chat through how we work with businesses, please feel free to drop me a line –

[1] Man’s search for meaning: The case of Legos. Journal of Economic Behaviour & Organisation. Vol 67, Issues 3-4. September 2008, pages 671-677.