Positive Psychology research has yielded some fascinating findings about the relationship between happiness and goal attainment. According to Robert Biswas-Diener and Ben Dean in their book, Positive Psychology Coaching (2007), happy people have psychological capital that supports the quest to bring their goals to fruition. Happy people are more creative, more productive, healthier, earn more money, have more friends, live longer and are more successful at staying married than folks who aren't so happy. In effect, happiness is not simply an end, but a potent means as well. Another important finding in the research is that through Positive Psychology Coaching, individuals can learn specific ways to increase their happiness quotient and, by so doing, greatly increase the likelihood of successfully achieving their goals and dreams.

Biswas-Diener and Dean also have found that it's very important for individuals to be realistic in establishing their happiness goals. Happiness is not a bottomless pit; it works to the client's advantage to expect moderately pleasant feelings rather than euphoria, and to expect these feelings to come and go. They note that, "clients who view mild satisfaction as a success are typically more motivated, optimistic, and positive about future outcomes."

Even though it's rare for a client to enter a coaching relationship with the express goal of becoming happier, in Positive Psychology Coaching the pursuit of happiness often becomes a significant part of the plan. There is a strong emphasis in Positive Psychology on the evaluation of the happiness levels of each client and a specification of the strategies that can lead to greater happiness.

In her book, The How of Happiness (2007), Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California at Riverside presents some surprising facts about happiness. For example, rich people are not as happy as most of us think! The wealthiest Americans, those with incomes above $10 million a year, appear only slightly happier than blue collar and office workers. She also has discovered through her research that up to 40% of our happiness is within our power to change. Forty percent! And one of the real eye openers in her research is the relative unimportance of "life circumstances" in determining how happy people are. That's right, all those things -- either positive or negative -- that happen to individuals affect only 10% of their happiness quotient.

In Positive Psychology Coaching, clients are often asked to complete one or more "inventories" to determine their happiness levels. Some examples of these are Lyubomirsky's "Subjective Happiness Scale," which measures a person's current level of happiness, and Martin Seligman's "Authentic Happiness Questionnaire," which measures a person's overall level of happiness.

Dr. Lyubomirsky also has developed the "Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic" to determine which of 12 happiness-promoting activities best match a particular client. This diagnostic tool asks questions about each of these activities, and the client's answers lead to an individual plan for enhancing the happiness quotient. She has found that performing daily intentional activities is an important key to increasing one's feelings of well-being. The 12 intentional daily activities she identifies are:

o Expressing gratitude
o Cultivating optimism
o Avoiding over thinking
o Practicing acts of kindness
o Nurturing social relationships
o Developing strategies for coping
o Learning and practicing forgiveness
o Increasing flow experiences
o Savoring life's joys
o Committing to goals
o Practicing religion and spirituality
o Taking care of your body

The questionnaire identifies the four top activities that will foster the greatest motivation and success for the individual.

You can find more information on techniques for achieving happiness in my book, It's Your Little Red Wagon... Six Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life (Embrace the Power of Positive Psychology and Live Your Dreams), available on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2009. Sharon S. Esonis, Ph.D

Author's Bio: 

Sharon S. Esonis, Ph.D., has spent close to three decades helping individuals thrive and improve their lives through her work as a licensed psychologist, author and life coach. An expert in human behavior and motivation, Dr. Esonis specializes in the burgeoning field of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of optimal human functioning and the core strengths that can lead to the achievement of one's personally-defined goals.

Her most recent book, It's Your Little Red Wagon... 6 Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life (Embrace the Power of Positive Psychology and Live Your Dreams!), is Dr. Esonis's contribution to the field of Positive Psychology, presenting proven success factors and strength-building techniques that can lead individuals to a life of purpose, motivation and happiness. It is available on Amazon.com.

Dr. Esonis earned her doctoral degree at Boston College and currently maintains a life coaching practice in the San Diego area. She also teaches Positive Psychology in the Extended Learning Program at California State University San Marcos. To learn more about the power of Positive Psychology and to order her latest book, visit her website at www.PositivePathLifeCoaching.com.