The book Happiness Rules by Manuel Astruc, a board-certified psychiatrist from New York, discusses the relationship between success, burnout, and happiness. As an entrepreneur, Astruc knew about the devastating effects of burnout all too well. He uses stories about his life and struggles with burnout, addiction, and mental health to curate real but inspirational advice to the readers. 

As people, we often measure our worth based on our professional success. This constant pressure to be “better” can cause people to fall into burnout, defined by the World Health Organization as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Some symptoms of burnout are exhaustion (physical and mental), being detached from work, growing cynical, and losing effectiveness. While burnout from work can seem only directly to affect your professional life, the catastrophic effects from continuous burnout seep their way into every aspect of your life. It affects your friends, family, mood, and outlook. The widespread effects of burnout can cause many people’s worlds to flip upside down. Does not work lead to success, which leads to happiness? Well, according to Astruc, no. He believes we must reverse this mindset, thinking that happiness leads to success. Astruc defines happiness as “the feeling of joy as you strive to achieve your potential.” If we change our goal to happiness rather than success, we will focus on things that truly matter to us. We will essentially be using happiness to fuel us and, therefore, our success. 

But how do we truly embrace happiness? Thankfully, Astruc gives us some guidelines: 

  • Embrace the suck: Happiness is not always happy. You are not going to be perfectly content all the time. Along with life being generally difficult, changing how you function in the world is hard, even if it is for your benefit. Shifting your mindset is hard. It might be challenging to focus more on yourself and your needs. Breaking bad practices and maintaining a work-life balance is hard work. You must consciously tell yourself to focus on your well-being and break the cycle. But while this might be stressful, focusing on yourself and your happiness will ultimately improve your life. 
  • Make your future bigger than the past: Complacency and stagnancy mixed is not a beneficial recipe. While you may feel comfortable in your ways, that does not make them good for you. Change is tough, especially when you feel like there is so much to do and you do not even know where to start. The best thing you can do is stop looking at the past. Do not wonder what you could have or should have done earlier. That will not do any good. Embrace where you are now. And think about what you have control of right now. Make your future bigger than the past. Make goals for yourself (see January 2023’s Something to Ponder for tips on SMART goals!). Goals create hope for the future and let you know that you are in control in the now. You have the power to make changes for the better. 
  • Connection with others: Maintaining and improving your relationships with those around you is essential. Being so focused on work can often make us lose sight of those around us. Evaluate your relationships: Are they healthy or unhealthy? Why? What can I do to maintain my connection with this person? As humans, we need connections with others to thrive. 
  • Blaze your own trail: Evaluate what makes you you. What makes you unique? What are your strongest abilities? What is your purpose? What are you curious about? What do you want to pursue? We can often get caught up in what people say is valuable without actually evaluating it for ourselves. That is why it is so important to explore different things. And with the rise of the internet, online courses and resources are more available now than ever! Truly explore what makes you happy and fulfilled. If you focus on that, success will come. 
  • Commit to enjoying the ride no matter what: Improving yourself is not linear. It is hard work to change anything in your routine, let alone how you view success and, more broadly, life. Do not expect to stay on course the whole time. Being off course is part of the ride of improvement. Do not get discouraged if you mess up. If anything, be excited! You are doing the work! As long as you understand what went wrong and how to fix it moving forward, that is great! Be proud of yourself for trying, failing, and then getting back up. That is the hardest part. 

I know that is a lot of information to think about, but if you want to hear more directly from Manuel Astruc, I strongly encourage you to read his book Happiness Rules. There are even a few videos of him on Youtube if you are a more visual person!

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