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September 27, 2014 12:01 AM EDT
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

The path to happiness and the path to being an expert overlap.

Here’s the problem though: research shows that you don’t usually do what really brings you joy or makes you an expert — you do what is easy.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

Sitting on the couch watching TV does not make you happy:

You are happier when you are busy and often have more fun at work than at home.

How is that possible? You spend a lot more time in high-challenge, high-skill situations that encourage flow states during work hours. You’re more likely to feel apathy during leisure time at home.

Via Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness:

Thinking and working can beat sad feelings. But you avoid those because they take effort.

You spend up to 8 minutes of every hour daydreaming. Your mind will probably wander for 13% of the time it takes you to read this post. Some of us spend 30-40% of our time daydreaming.

Via The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You):

Problem is, a wandering mind is not a happy mind:

Your default is to do what is easy, but you’re happier when challenged. You need to fight your instincts.

What should you be doing?

Things you’re good at.

Signature strengths” are the things you are uniquely talented at and using them brings you joy. People who deliberately exercised their signature strengths on a daily basis became significantly happier for months.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

Signature strengths are the secret to experiencing more “flow” at work and in life. Exercising them is why starving artists are happier with their jobs.

But isn’t this a lot of hard work?

Mastering skills is stressful in the short term and happiness-boosting in the long term. Ambitious goals make you happier.

But maybe you’re afraid of failure. This is why you do what is easy and why your instinct is to play it safe. Fear of failure is one of the most powerful feelings.

Via Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy:

Thinking about what happens to you in terms of your self-esteem will crush you — look at life as growing and learning:

When challenged, focus on “getting better” — not doing well or looking good. Get-better goals increase motivation, make tasks more interesting and replenish energy.

Via Nine Things Successful People Do Differently:

But what is the end goal you should focus on? Is there an easy way to think about what you should be heading toward?

Yes. Think about the best possible version of yourself and move toward that.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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