Five Ways to Be Happier and More Successful

Prime your brain for positivity

By Jonathan Powell

Key Takeaways:

  • Training your brain to be happy and positive will almost certainly make you a more successful advisor.
  • Each morning before you dive into your day, write down three things for which you’re grateful.
  • Physical activity is one way that the brain learns the lesson “Success fuels more success.”
  • Find ways to connect socially every day.

Building a successful financial advisory business may or may not make you happy—but being happy will almost certainly make you a more successful advisor.

As I noted in my last article , research by Shawn Achor shows that when our brains are in positive states, we experience better results in our professional lives. Happiness actually creates and amplifies the success that you (and your clients) can enjoy.

Even better is the fact that 90 percent of our happiness is determined by how we view the world. This means you can largely control and choose how happy you want to be. Change your viewpoint and you change your overall level of happiness.

With that in mind, here are five of Achor’s strategies for incorporating long-term positive patterns of thinking into your life, the lives of your team members and even the lives of your clients.

1. Write down your gratitudes. Each morning before you dive into your day, write down three things—big or small—that happened in the last 24 hours for which you’re grateful. Do this for 21 consecutive days, citing new gratitudes each day. By consciously seeking out the good things in your life, your brain actually builds connections that can turn you from a pessimist into an optimist—or an even greater optimist. When Achor had a group of bankers do this, they became measurably more efficient and effective at work in just three weeks.

2. Keep a journal. Each day, think back over your past 24 hours for one meaningful experience, and spend two minutes writing down every detail you can remember from it. When you do this for 21 days, your brain starts to connect everything you do throughout your day—the meetings, the phone calls, the commute you have—and see how it all works together in a meaningful way. Instead of seeing a long, endless list of unrelated tasks to do all the time, your brain starts to look for meaning in each of the many items on your to-do list. This in turn helps you focus on the process of getting things done, which ultimately creates more happiness than if you focus only on getting to the end result. Do this for three weeks, says Achor, and your productivity will soar by 30 percent.

3. Get sweaty. This is a no-brainer, right? You know that exercising releases lots of endorphins that make you happy and help stave off depression. But did you know that a satisfying run or other workout also tells your brain that because you’ve been successful in one domain, you can probably be successful in other parts of your life too? Ever wonder why people who exercise also tend to eat better? Physical activity is one way that the brain learns the lesson “Success fuels more success.” So if you want to land that prospect who’s coming in at 2 p.m., try going for a run at 8 a.m.

4. Be quiet. Meditate by sitting quietly for just two minutes a day and observing your breath going in and out. It can do wonders for your attention span and overall effectiveness. Even though we are capable of doing two or more tasks at once, our effectiveness drops when we multitask. As a result, we feel less happy when we multitask than we do if we do one thing at a time. Meditation addresses that by training our brains to focus better—which helps us achieve better results with less stress and more enjoyment along the way.

5. Be social. Social support is the greatest predictor of happiness and success in challenging times. Unfortunately, it’s typically the first thing we push away when the going gets tough. When we’re stressed, what do we do? We eat lunch by ourselves in our offices, we stop talking to people, we work even harder and so on. The solution: Find ways to connect socially every day. One of the best methods for busy advisors with limited time: When you get into work, fire off a quick email (spend two minutes or less) praising or thanking someone in your social support network—such as a client, co-worker, boss, family member or friend. Pick a different person each day. In 21 days, your brain will have a hugely positive perception of your social support network—and you’ll be primed to enjoy more happiness and success.


In the end, happiness is a choice—but it’s a choice that takes effort to achieve and maintain. Make the commitment today to choose activities that will train your brain to be fundamentally happier, and you’ll find yourself both more content and more successful six months from now.

About the Author

Jonathan Powell is a managing principal at CEG Worldwide, LLC in San Martin, California. Working with many of the nation’s top financial firms, he enjoys helping financial advisors transform their professional and personal lives by implementing CEG Worldwide’s research-backed principles.