“A man wishing to be unhappy finds many ways to prove his cause.” – 100 Eyes, Marco Polo

What a wise monk that 100 Eyes was! Or at least the character played by Tom Wu on Netflix's Marco Polo series seems legit. That's where today's quote comes from. Although spoken by a fictional character from a historical fiction series, 100 Eyes speaks the truth.

And I feel that the opposite is true as well. That quote could equally read, “A man wishing to be happy finds many ways to prove his cause,” and still ring true. I've come to believe that happiness is a state of mind and not a destination.

There's a TEDx Talk by Shawn Achor called “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance” where he discusses his lifelong research on happiness and how we've got it all wrong. I recommend everyone listen to the full talk, but here's the excerpt I want to share:

In the last three years, I've traveled to 45 different countries, working with schools and companies in the midst of an economic downturn. And what I found is that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I'll be more successful. And if I'm more successful, then I'll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting styles, our managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior.

And the problem is it's scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. First, every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades; you got into a good school and after you get into a better school; you got a good job, now you have to get a better job; you hit your sales target, we're going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. What we've done is we've pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. And that's because we think we have to be successful, then we'll be happier.

But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage – which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral, or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise.

My advice to travelers and non-travelers alike is to be happy now. Don't wait until after you've visited 25 countries to be happy, even if that's your goal. Listen to 100 Eyes… Wish to be happy and prove your cause.

While you're here, watch the full Tedx Talk by Shawn Achor: