On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy should you aspire to be?
Be an “8”.
Do the extremely happy achieve more than the very happy? Surprisingly, the answer is no. When individuals complete happiness surveys that use a one to ten scale, those scoring around an eight often tend to fare the best in achievement. Why might the eights of the world outperform their friends and neighbors who are nines or tens? It could be that eights benefit from the creativity and energy of happiness, but also maintain a touch of worry that helps to motivate them.
Let’s analyze this “number 8 phenomenon” in more depth. We found an interesting and surprising result when we examined data from college students. In 1976, thousands of students from elite colleges, small liberal arts schools, large state universities, and traditional black colleges completed a large survey, which included a single question about their levels of cheerfulness. Twenty years later, when the students were about 37 years old, they were contacted again and asked to report their incomes. It may seem incredible that a single item filled out on a particular date two decades earlier could be used to predict income years later, but it did. The happy folks seemed to be outearning the unhappy people, but the next-to-happiest group was earning the most!
Similar results can be found in an analysis of a huge sample by Shigehiro Oishi, who analyzed the satisfaction scores of over 100,000 respondents from all over the world. Those who scored well on happiness – the sevens, eights, and nines on a ten-point scale – had higher incomes and more advanced educations than both the tens and those who were unhappy.
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