Prudential’s US business, Jackson, draws from psychology to discuss how we can become more positive savers and investors to drive success.
Re-calibrating the lens through which we view success
By Dan Martin, Center for Financial Insight, Jackson
Before you made it to this article (welcome, and thank you, by the way), you may have sifted through a stack (or the digital version of a stack) of other educational content on finance and investing. I've found that these articles exist on a spectrum. On one end, you might have a white paper on Variable Distribution MLP risk and rate of return, which might include topics, language and analysis that are completely unintelligible to all but the most accomplished financial analysts. On the other, you might see an article or video with the title "5 Easy Steps to DIY Investing Success," which, spoiler alert, might turn out to be a bit of an oversimplification.
As our writers put together content for Jackson's Center for Financial Insight, we are constantly in search of the middle of the spectrum: content that is prescriptive and offers substance, but that is also consumable and engaging (something we hope people want to read). With this spectrum in mind, I began thinking about what success means in the investing world. Success in one instance might be the dollars and cents needed to reach a specific, calculated goal, while on the other side of the coin, might be the dream of retiring to a private island and whiling away the "Golden Years" on a pristine white sand beach.
Yet, success, whether in investing or in life, is entirely a matter of personal environment, mindset and perspective. The question then becomes, "How do we step outside of the common definitions of 'investing success' outlined above, and create our own version?"
To help answer this question, we can learn valuable lessons from Shawn Achor, a happiness researcher (I love that title), author and speaker, and a tireless advocate for positive psychology. I'm basing the following tips on, you guessed it, Shawn's TED Talk, "The Happy Secret to Better Work," which is on TED's list of the 20 most popular talks of all time.
Pursuing the "Happiness Advantage"
Happiness is an ethereal, often ambiguous and subjective concept and, as such, it tends to get downplayed or pushed to the side when the conversation turns to more tangible topics, like revenue, sales and, historically, investing. In a way, this makes sense. The very definition of happiness differs wildly from individual to individual, making the measurement of how important happiness actually is to "success" in the way we normally define it enormously difficult.
As a result, we (human beings) have decided that, instead of making happiness a part of the recipe for success on the front end, being successful will bring us to happiness. In his talk, Shawn explains the phenomenon as follows:
"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 one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we're going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. 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."1