Shawn Achor is one of the world’s leading authorities on the connection between happiness and success. Shawn Achor is a Harvard trained researcher who authored The Happiness Advantage and the New York Times bestseller, Before Happiness. I have read both of these books and found two very important takeaways: 1) to be successful, one must be happy first; 2) happiness is the joy we feel when we move toward our potential. Before reading these two books, I had always put the cart before the horse and believed if I could just be successful, I could realize my happiness. I also thought that happiness was something that always felt good. I had confused happiness with pleasure. While pleasure is short-lived, happiness is a constantly evolving and lifelong endeavor.
My wife Heather may be the most goal-oriented and disciplined person I have ever known. I have watched her set physical fitness goals and attack them one week at a time, one day at a time, and one repetition at a time. Ironically, I find that Heather is happiest not at the conclusion of her goal but in the process of getting to her goal. As Shawn Achor explains, and Heather exemplifies, “joy is something you can experience even when life is not pleasurable.” It is this ability to live in the moment, that has made Heather such a fantastic example for our kids. The best advice I can give to parents about establishing a healthy perspective in your kids comes not from my experience but from Sean Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.
I bought this book for Andrew and Chandler when they were 13 and 14 and, to my amazement, they didn’t just read the book, they devoured it. We had very good discussions about the topics Covey raises in his book. I am convinced that kids crave the type of structure Covey sets out in this book. I highly recommend you pick up a copy for your teenager. If you have read Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the teen version will sound familiar. Covey outlines the following habits of highly effective teens:
1. Be Proactive;
2. Begin with the End in Mind;
3. Put First Things First;
4. Think Win-Win;
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood;
7. Sharpen the Saw
Although your teen needs your help setting goals and establishing a direction, it is critical that a teen understand these are his or her goals, not yours. I am guilty of imposing what I want instead of allowing my teenager to discover what they want. Sometimes letting go can be the hardest part of this process.