Success doesn’t guarantee happiness (despite what the experts say) and here’s why.

This post originally appeared on


“I wish everyone could have all the money that I have, could have all the fame that I’ve gotten and all the attention, and have all their dreams come true, to realize that that is not the answer.” __ Jim Carrey

The Happiness Lie

I learned something new today.  I learned that everything we think we know about how to be happy is WRONG.  That’s right.  Have we really been chasing our tail to try to achieve that elusive HAPPINESS? Before we look more closely at this, it is worth considering what the established formula for happiness is:

Have you spotted the clue?

Happiness at Harvard study

Broadly speaking, the perceived wisdom is that achieving success is the path to happiness, and that the path to success is through hard work.  This is the model that we use in all areas of life and have done so for many years.  What if that formula was wrong?  What if everything that we have been doing for years in pursuit of happiness was only leading us to dissatisfaction and unhappiness?

According to American Psychologist, Shawn Anchor, living our lives to the accepted formula in pursuit of happiness is not only ineffective, but also detrimental to health.  He argues that the way to be truly happy lies not in working hard to become successful, but in social interaction and connectedness.  Not only that, he argues that our state of happiness impacts positively on those around us; and our happiness state influences other people’s happiness state.  Nothing new there in my opinion, as one of my favourite sayings, is that behaviour breeds behaviour.  I believe this wholeheartedly, and I consider it to be one of the most effective ways of influencing change in other people.  Take a look at this case study for a demonstration on how powerful this can be.

Happiness is key to productivity

Shawn Anchor asserts that we are most productive and focused when we are in a happy state. Again, I don’t think there is anything very contemporary about this. If we are unhappy or stressed, it can become difficult to focus on anything, let alone work.  It would seem that if happiness is the key to productivity, and success is not the route to happiness – we most definitely HAVE been chasing our tails!  I think where Shawn Anchor’s argument does become interesting, is when he talks about the formula of happiness in relation to how successful we are, and that we need to reverse this formula to get ahead in the happiness stakes.  This premise pretty much gives us permission (if ever we needed it) to get off the treadmill that many of us find ourselves on in pursuit of happiness that – no matter what we do – continues to elude us.  There are many people who live their lives driven by the idea that great success will lead them to greater happiness.  If I could only get that promotion, I will be happier.If I had more money, I will be happyIf I get my dream house, I will be happy

Shawn Anchor, in the his Ted Talk, makes a compelling argument that success does not make us any happier.  He explains this in terms of brain biology.

He was asked why he studied Happiness at the elite educational establishment of Harvard: what possibly could Harvard students have to be unhappy about?  In addressing this question, he goes on to explain that there is an implicit assumption that our external world predicts our happiness.  It seems that only 10% of our happiness is predicated on our external world.If this is the case, where does the other 90% come from?  If it has nothing to do do with what we have, how successful we are, or how much money we have, does this mean we are doomed to have only 10% happiness in our lives?  That seems a pretty dire scenario.So, where exactly does the majority of our happiness come from?  According to the latest research, 90% of our happiness comes from the way in which our brain processes the experiences we have in our day to day lives (taking us back to brain biology).

Getting back to the Harvard question, Shawn Anchor says that the initial excitement and pride of getting into a prestigious college diminishes within a few days and instead, the students’ brains focus on the pressure, the heavy workload and deadlines.  He reasons, that this is because our brain never lets us be satisfied with our achievements.  Once we have reached our goal – our brain is hardwired to not value that goal, and therefore we end up with a never ending loop of seeking success/achieve a goal to get that dopamine hit that makes us (temporarily) feel good when we have our desired result.

It seems that once we achieve something, it becomes the norm.  Once something becomes the norm, we no longer appreciate the achievement as anything special.  Why does this happen?  It is all down to how our brain is wired.  Once we have achieved our goal, what does the brain do?  It moves the goal posts.

How to get ahead at work

One of the most interesting gems from the TED Talk is around how to achieve success in the workplace.  Did you know that only 25% of job success comes from how intelligent you are?  It seems that 75% comes from your level of optimism, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge rather than a threat.  I guess this is where personality characteristics and mindset trump IQ.  I think it certainly turns on it’s head anecdotal gripes about people who get ahead but “are not deserving, and are in with the boss”.  Perhaps it isn’t nepotism that has been at play after all, but the fact that a can-do-attitude and solid inter-personal skills are more effective in teams and influencing others.


Why is any of this important?

It seems to me that, the breakthrough that experiences and connectedness is what leads to greater happiness rather than material possessions, is not new.  Many of us have long known that true value comes from relationships that we have with the people around us; and that isolation (whether that be due to heavy work commitments or otherwise), leads to unhappiness, and even poor mental wellbeing.

This viewpoint doesn’t just come from an evolved emotional intelligence (it took a long time coming and so I claim it with pride), I believe it is replicated many times across society.  The pursuit of happiness through material possessions or achievement of goals may be true for some people.  Who those people are and why, is outside the scope of this piece. I started off this blog thinking that I had learned something new.

As I have been writing, I have realised that – actually I haven’t.  I don’t know that all people do chase success in pursuit of happiness.  I think people chase success for many reasons – including having a psyche that is defined by what they are externally, rather than who they are internally.  Perhaps they are seeking validation.  Or perhaps they simply want to make a difference in the world.

The success lie

I am wondering whether the issue here is more about the success lie, than the happiness lie.  If everyone bought into this, then what would happen to ambition?  What would happen to those that change our world for the good through their hard work, ambition and drive?  If everyone gave up in the pursuit of happiness – where would we be?Are people who are successful, truly unhappy?  I am not entirely sure that they are.  Ok, so some people may measure their worth by what they achieve, and are never truly happy with the end result.  Perhaps our brain biology simply then creates the desire for us to move forward again.  Does that mean that we are unhappy with the success we achieved?

The key to happiness AND success is positivity

If happiness is on the other side of success, our brain never gets there.  __Shawn Anchor

Within the 15 minute TED presentation, Shawn Anchor concludes with the premise that if we raise our positivity in the present, this gives a happiness advantage.  He goes on to say, that the brain when in a positive state, performs better than when in a neutral or stressed state.

Where I really support Shawn Anchor’s views, is in how this formula reversal relates to education. Just not in the way he applies it.  The education system (both here in the UK as well as in the US), is calibrated to the average student. This is advantageous for less than average students (who have something to strive for), but not for above average or gifted student who is not challenged within this model.  Students should not be told simply that if they work hard enough they will be successful; running the risk of becoming stressed and impacting negatively on their mental wellbeing. Perhaps they should be taught how to live with a positive mindset (as proposed by Shawn Anchor). In doing so, they will increase their wellbeing (and therefore their happiness), as well as improving their capacity for learning as the activation of dopamine switches on the learning centres of the brain.

How to increase positivity in the brain

There are a number of ways to switch your brain into a positive state:

  • Random acts of KINDESS
  • Practising GRATITUDE
  • JournallingExerciseMeditation

Effectively, this practice when done continuously over 21 days rewires the brain, leading to more optimism, which leads to more happiness and ultimately more success.

All it takes is a two minutes a day for the brain to create a more positive mindset.



NEXT IN SERIES:   Happiness is equal to or greater than the events of your life minus your expectation of how life should be.

NEXT IN SERIES:   How to rewire your brain to experience life more positively

You can watch Shawn Anchor’s Ted Talk here.  It is not only worth checking out to learn more about the research underpinning a revised happiness (at work) theory, Shawn Anchor himself is a very entertaining presenter.

You get what you give: how your relationships will benefit from being more assertive

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON PHOENIX COACHING SOLUTIONS WEBSITE.  You can view the original article by clicking the link.


You get what you give: how your relationships will benefit from being more assertive

June 7, 2018

| An article by: Cassie Jordan, Relationship Guru

Have you ever heard the expression “behaviour breeds behaviour”?  This is one of my most used and favourite expressions.  Why?  Because it is true, that’s why.

What does it mean?

Essentially, it means that the behaviour and actions that you put out there influences those around you.  So if you are always happy and smiley when you meet people, then chances are people will be happy and smiley with you.  If you are grumpy, well, your bad mood may just get you into one or two disagreements as people will respond negatively to your grumpiness, particularity if you are being snappy or rude alongside your grumpy demeanour.

So how does this link to being more assertive in your relationships?

Quite simply, this applies not only to your wider circle, but to your closest and most intimate relationships too.  If you are struggling in your relationship and  don’t know how to resolve the problems and the tension – then a good place to start is to focus on your own behaviour.  Another favourite saying of mine is that “you can’t change people but you can influence them”.

I suppose in some respects this can be linked to positive reinforcement.  For dog lovers out there, and indeed for parents, this concept will be familiar when trying to deal with unwanted behaviour in pets and children.  (Just to point out, I do not put pets above children, it is simply that I am a poochy-mamma and don’t have children – so I tend to think of dogs first.)

So how does this influence relationships?

 If your other half seems to be in a permanent bad mood, always snapping, shouting and generally being unpleasant towards you, it is a natural reaction to snap back.  The problem with this, is that you then create a cycle of negativity.  If you are not ready to give up on your relationship, and you want your partner to be nicer to you and to treat you the way you deserve to be treated, then you can choose not to react to poor behaviour.  You can also choose not to accept the behaviour, and remove yourself from the situation.  I often coach my clients to make a simple and clear statement such as:

“I am not happy with the way you spoke to me.  As you seem to be in a bad mood, I am going to leave you to it for now.  If you want to talk to me when you are in a better mood, then just let me know”.

The case study below illustrates how effective this technique is.

Case study

“J” came to me upset about her relationship.  Her partner had ended it, and although they reconciled within a few weeks things were not good between them, and “J” herself was considering walking away.

I asked “J” to focus on her own confidence levels and assertiveness rather than her partner’s behaviour.  Using statements similar to the one above, whenever her partner treated her badly, she would simply let him know she was unhappy with his behaviour calmly, and go home.  This happened a number of times over the next 3 or 4 weeks and there did not seem, initially, to be any improvement.

“J” then shared with me that things were getting better and her partner was being much nicer to her.  He was asking to come over to her place instead of her always having to go to his, and he was much nicer to be around.

“J” is still unsure what the future holds for them, but at least now communication is more positive between them she can make a decision based on the relationship as a whole, rather than reacting to negative behaviour.

Giving out what you want to receive back

Sometimes it is worth riding the storm and holding onto a relationship, and by making sure that we do not react negatively, we do not feed into the cycle of tit for tat and one-up-man-ship.

My client was able to positively influence her partner by not buying into his negative behaviour.  It took a little time, but within a few weeks she began to notice that her partner’s behaviour towards her improved.  As always, relationships are fluid and it remains a work in progress – as indeed are all relationships for every of us.

The other positive benefit for “J” is that I see her blossoming before my very eyes, into a more confident and assertive person.  She asks for what she needs, and she says no when she needs to.

Underpinning these changes is a growing self esteem that had been seriously lacking for “J” in her past.

If you would like to work on your own self esteem, confidence and assertiveness, then take a look at these soundbite short online courses (click on the links below) .

If you have a specific question, you can also reach out to The Relationship Guru on our Facebook page @RelationshipGuru1 and check out our brand new group where you can get the latest updates and special offers.  Click the link to join the group Relationship Guru Haven.

Cassie x

Cassie Jordan
Relationship Guru


Dear Diary: Lost in cyberland!

Dear diary

31st May 2018

Ok, so I concede – I have ventured back into cyberland dating. lured me back with 600 views and 50-odd winks and 10 or so messages.  I got curious so I paid my dues.  Seems I never learn, as my heart sank at more of the same old same old.  I was also seduced to try eHarmony again after reading a press article about a match to marriage within 9 months.  (I guess I should have checked whether it was a sponsored storyline).  This story caught my eye as he was in the UK and she was in the States.  So, distance romance does work then!  Of course, they were in the 30s age bracket and I’m not quite sure a 50-something is going to meet the man of her dreams in this way.  Heck, I can’t even seem to meet the man-not-of-my-dreams.  I am getting a lot of attention from youngsters though – and if they are canny enough, a bit of banter doesn’t go amiss.

Of course, as soon as distance-guy-fake-gate became the reality rather than a possibility, I tapped off a text to my nice looking sex addict.  That reminds me, my new favourite line in response to anyone trying to engage me in sexy chat is:

If I wanted that kind of chat I have a very nice sex addict on speed dial!

Seriously, I actually did use that line yesterday!

I updated my profiles to take out the spikiness in the hopes of sharing that I don’t really hate men, I don’t think they are all fakes, flakes or frogs – but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference so far.  Ok, so it is not quite 12 hours since I paid up – but a girl is ageing by the minute!  Did I just call myself girl?  Hmmm … my sarcastic retort to one guy calling me girl suggests to me that I have linguistic double standards.

So, I wonder what is in store for me?  Instead of feeling excited at the prospect of getting to know a few new people and the possibility of a date or two, or three, I feel decidedly dejected and depressed.  Am I really here again?  Glutton for punishment does not begin to describe it – I really am unsure as to why I am putting myself through this again.

I did check out what is going on locally to see if there was anything I could rock up to that I might come into contact with a few guys – but nada.  It also seems that I need to live in any other town in the UK to find a nice date.  Without exception, all the guys I like the look of are over 200 miles away!  The cynic in me wonders if the dating sites set their algorithms to only show good matches at a distance!

Oh, a lovely interruption there from my sex-addict-guy:

When can I see you?

I do think he is cute, and I do think that he is a much nicer guy than he pretends to be … and maybe one day I will meet up with him.  Certainly the banter does make me feel a little better and is a distraction from my recent disappointment.  I am not convinced though, that he is not already attached.  A nice looking man in his 40s, single?  It doesn’t make sense.  Dallying with another woman’s man is a step too far and not one I intend to breach.  I have challenged him on this a few times and he assures me he is single as:

I’m not very good at relationships.

Hmmm … that may be due to the sex addiction then.   I do believe that we are all, as  individuals, responsible for our own consciences, however, knowing, or even suspecting that a man is in a committed relationship with another woman is a non-negotiable boundary for me.  Dating on the other hand, I don’t have a problem with a guy seeing other women, as long as he has no problem with me seeing other men (I should be so lucky).  After all, initially, dating is about getting to know someone, trying them out, and seeing whether you want to take things further.

So, dear diary, it looks as though I have jumped back into the mire … ahem … ok, so that attitude is not going to attract many dates.  I will be on my best behaviour, and treat it as the tool it is.  No dear diary, I meant the dating sites, not the guys!

I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on.


Carol xOxO

p.s. I will be soooo grateful when I stop seeing “Siggy” when I glance at Mr Dahl’s pictures – one day at a time, I guess.


Dear diary: outing the fakes

Dear diary

29th May 2018 20:15

These images were some of the photos that were used in a romance scam.  The man featured in these pictures is a real person, by the name of Per Gunnar Dahl.  There is no suggestion that he has any connection whatsoever to this scam, and is an innocent party.  From what I have been able to determine, Mr Dahl has a prominent profile in Norway and this is most likely how he has come to the attention of the scammers.



It is likely that email, Telegram and mobile numbers will be changed, but here is a reminder of those details:

Name used Sigvard Aloisio Torvald, Siggy, Sig
Telegram user name @Sigggy
Mobile number +16 0422 77 488
Dating site username Looking4vikingman

Unfortunately, real numbers can be disguised and so I do not know where this scammer is located.

I would ordinarily seek permission to use the images, however, I have been unable to make contact with the real Per Gunnar Dahl.  It is important, I believe, to share these pictures to warn other women.

The copyright for the images remains with Per Gunnar Dahl.


Dear Diary: So it did happen again!

Dear Diary

27th May 2018 23:23 

Just as well I am too stingy to part with my cash.  I now have incontrovertible proof that the man (or should I say men) I have been interacting with for the last 5 months is fake!

If you come across a Sigvard Aloisio Torvald then beware – even typing his name feels difficult and wrong as that name is so familiar to me.  This person also uses Looking4Vikingman as a username on dating websites and I came across him on Zoosk.  I know that he also has a profile on although he doesn’t have an image on that one.  He said that he came off Zoosk after we “met” but may actually simply have blocked me so that I could no longer see his profile.  The email he goes by is  He purported to be Norwegian living in Canada and relocating to the UK.  He uses Telegram instant messenger service with the user name @Sigggy and the mobile number he uses is +16 0422 77 488.  Unfortunately it is all too easy to disguise a number these days to look as though it is coming from any country of a scammer’s choosing.

I won’t share the profile pictures here as these are of a real person, and so far I have not found any evidence of multiple profiles using the images.  If you do come across a man with this name though, please do contact me and send me a picture.  I can let you know if it is the same man and also recommend that you do a google reverse image search.  Unfortunately for me, this did not throw up a concern early on when I did this but when I used it again today, I got a hit

Make no mistake, this is big business to these people and they keep going as they do make many millions out of it.  It is organised crime and very slick.

Early on, he even sent me a copy of his passport, which I found particularly strange.  I was already aware though, that a fake passport had been used in one of the #FakeThomas scams and so I was cautious about that.  Never completely trust pictures of identification documents that are sent to you.  The only foolproof is to see that person stood in front of you.

That is all I have to say on the matter, dear diary.  Suffice to say .. I’m off dating permanently!

Later, (maybe)

Carol xOxO

Dear Diary: Letting go of past hurts

Dear Diary

22nd May 2018

Well, it has certainly been a tumultuous few weeks since I panicked and called fake on my distance-paramour.  What was interesting for me to experience, was the effect it had on me.  I have talked previously about the role of the amygdala in creating giddy feelings of “being in love” due to a cascade of hormones reacting to gratifying stimuli.  With the removal of said stimuli, the feelings of giddiness and happiness disappear in a relatively short time (albeit replaced with other emotions: shock, anger, disbelief).  This did not happen.  Instead, my body was flooded with stress hormones as I tried to make sense of what I believed had happened, whilst at the same time being riddled with doubt that I had accused him, yet again, of something that he was not guilty of.

It is evident that in the time that we had been chatting, texting, messaging and calling, a bond had developed.  One that we both wanted to explore in the real world when he got to the UK.  I make no apologies for caving in to his persistent attention, as I do firmly believe that you either have to be “in” something or not.  It is not possible to dangle one foot outside of the circle and expect that your heart’s desire will be fulfilled.  I did attempt to do this in the beginning, adamant as I was that I was not going to form an emotional bond with a man so far away and definitely not with one I had yet to meet.  I continued to navigate the trickiness of dating online, and earlier in the year I did have a number of dates.

I wasn’t so much trying to keep my options open, but rather I was trying to be sensible about the blossoming relationship with the guy I had never met.  There came a point though, where I had to be in it or ditch it.  There was something about this man that I did not want to – could not in fact – turn my back on.  Sure, he is definitely not my type, and hey, he can be a little intense.  But after a while that is what I came to really value about him.  He is a man who speaks his mind, who talks about his emotions, who shares his plans.  What women wouldn’t want a man that seemed to be an open book?

I have to admit, the last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle.  I did not want to, nor did I feel I could, lament to family and friends about the loss of a relationship that many people would not consider existed in the first place.  Thank goodness for one friend though, who has quite literally been my rock and listened patiently without judgement or well meaning opinion, and let me decompress about the situation.  Not only that, this friend turned detective to reach out to him.

What she subsequently shared with me hit me square in the face.  Not only does he not hate me for yet again bailing on him amidst accusations of fakery, he is seemingly attempting to take ownership of “his error”.  I think he is still quite bewildered and beyond shocked that I could consider him to be fake – but he is mature enough to understand that we all have different viewpoints about any given situation (largely shaped by our past experiences).  It had occurred to me that his mindset at the time of the misguided request was not focusing on how I would receive the request in light of my unfortunate experience, but that things were going well between us, we were planning to meet soon and he was under the wire with regards to his project.  What he shared with my friend echoed this as loud as a pin drop bouncing around a canyon.

So, dear diary, it seems that I was wrong.  Again.  It also seems as though we have a stalemate.  There is an old proverb:

only time will tell

I’ve never been the most patient of people – but that is something I am going to have to embrace for the time being.  What the future holds for this distance-connection is in the lap of the gods.  There is little communication between us at the moment, and I have no desire to return to the intensity pre-fake-gate.  What this situation has done, though, has rebooted the connection to one of “we don’t really know each other” rather than the misguided “you are my world”.  Until such time as I can grab this man at the airport and say:

hello, nice to meet you

that, dear diary, will have to do for now.

If providence smiles on me and there is a future for two strangers who decided they wanted to take a chance on each other – then so be it.


Carol XoXo

Dear diary: The truth is I will never know

Dear Diary

11th May, 2018

I have talked at length about the role of the amygdala, and how it is excited when stimuli activates it.  I also talked about how, once the stimuli is no longer present, the feelings go away; and that this is the mechanism by which we can feel as though we are in love with someone we have not met.

So why do I feel so sad?  Why does it feel as though there is a physical pain in my chest?  Is it because 4 months down the line, the feelings had become a habit?  It is a well known phenomenon that habits take 21 days to form.  Or is it because I have blown it with a good man?

The sad truth of the matter is that I will never know.  Yes, I am sure I could have handled what happened differently – but to be honest, if the exact circumstances were presented to me again I would have drawn the same assumptions and conclusions – wouldn’t you?  The fact that he may not see it that way is his problem rather than mine.  Ok – so it has caused me a problem – but hey …life goes on.  Right?

I don’t want to become stuck with this.  Is it just me or is there a pathetic irony that the one person that you want to speak to is the one person that you are no longer connected to?  I’m not good at keeping silent when I have something on my mind.  The last thing I want to do is cause further hurt to the other person involved in this sorry saga.  This is drama.  I am creating drama.  I don’t want drama in my life.  I don’t want to be that person causing drama.

So yesterday I took the unprecedented step of deleting our texts, messages and emails.  I removed his number from my phone.  Ok, so I wrote it down and secreted it somewhere that I won’t come across it unless I purposely decide to do so.  I owe it to myself and to him to leave it untouched.

I didn’t share much about my blossoming “relationship” with the people in my life.  Not least because scepticism is a mood killer, but also, because well meaning opinions can lead to disagreements.

So what now?  How do I move on as quickly as possible from the hurt and disappointment?  For that is surely what I have to do as I cannot expect him to forgive me for a third time.  I have decided to let serendipity take the reigns.

Did I make a mistake in not trusting him?  The truth is I will never know.

If love is meant for me, it can come find me as I can no longer put myself through the dilemmas, disappointments and damage that can be online dating.  Yes, I know it works for some.  I am just not one of them.  So, serendipity it is!


Carol xoxo