In a paper published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience by researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in which the brains of 46 teenagers were scanned, they found that risk-taking teens activated a portion of the brain called the ventral striatum. The ventral striatum is comprised of a large amount of dopamine receptors. Dopamine is the happiness neurotransmitter.
In my Rich Habits study, I found that 142 of the 177 self-made millionaires (80%) had devoted much of their adult lives in the pursuit of some dream. Anyone who has ever pursued a dream understands that doing so requires that you take significant risks with your time and money, since there is no guarantee that you will realize your dream. An interesting correlation to this was also found in my study: 82% of the wealthy said they were happy. Conversely, only 3% of the poor people in my study took a risk in pursuing some dream and interestingly, only 2% of the poor in my study said they were happy.
It’s clear from these studies that the pursuit of success will make you happier in life. Playing it safe in life not only prevents you from pursuing success, it also results long-term unhappiness. If your ultimate goal in life is long-term happiness, pursue something you are passionate about.
We were not put here on earth to play it safe. We are here to push ourselves to realize our potential. We can only realize that true potential by taking risks and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones. The discomfort inherent in taking a risk by pursuing some dream forces us to grow our knowledge, expertise, skills and relationships. The true reward in pursuing a dream and realizing success is not money, it is happiness.