October 3, 2022

Success or happiness? Or both?

Society creates the false expectation that when you are successful, happiness will follow. We’re all focused on prioritizing careers, but are we also focused on prioritizing our happiness?

Society creates the false expectation that when you are successful, happiness will follow. But are success and happiness the same thing? The short answer is no, they are not and I think we can all agree on that. In today's society, I’d say not only are they not the same, but more and more success seems to be preying on happiness.

We’re all focused on prioritizing careers, but are we also focused on prioritizing our happiness?

Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, therefore becoming a successful person should only mean accomplishing a desired aim. But society has quietly written a different definition of success, one where becoming successful means “having achieved fame, wealth, or social status”.

From the initial definition of the word success, achieving happiness as a goal should also turn you into a successful person, but would you call a happy person successful just because that person is happy? As we all know, being happy is quite an accomplishment, yet we would never call a person successful if all that person had was happiness.

There is much that we don’t want to admit to ourselves, but sooner or later it becomes obvious. In our chase of success, we forget what is really important, which is to be happy. We’ve been pushed, pulled and molded to fit society’s expectations and society’s definition of success, but that definition of success does not account for happiness.

Happiness is hard to measure. I get that. It's not tangible, it's not visible and it's not something we’ve been taught to be aware of. When we were kids we did things because they made us happy, we played because that made us happy, we ate chocolate and gummy bears because that made us happy. However, somewhere along the way, we stopped doing things because they made us happy and started doing the things that would make us “successful” and believed that would make us happy.

We live in a world that is still highly divided, where privileges are overlooked, where more is the only way to go. We are blinded by the opportunities, by the options, by the resources available. We have become hunter-gatherers, but a very different kind. We’re hunting and gathering more than we need, more than the planet can offer. That hunter-gatherer behavior might give you the society’s label of success, but will rob you of the opportunity to accomplish a bigger goal, that of being happy.

Being happy is not some mystical pursuit, it’s a deliberate process that involves awareness, acceptance and action. While the science of happiness is young and the research is still evolving, one thing is bound to stay, and that is the fact that happiness is the result of your own thoughts and actions.

So what can you do to improve your long term happiness? Here are a few ideas:

  • Introduce mindfulness in your everyday life. Pause, pay attention, become aware of present moment realities without labelling whatever is happening as “good” or “bad”. Explore life with every sense, notice the sights, smells, sounds, sensations and tastes that you experience in each moment.
  • Find meaning in what you do. We have lots of things we like, lots of things we do in our lives (and many more yet to come). Do things with purpose and regularly re-assess who you are, what you believe and what you do are still aligned.
  • Nurture your relationships. Research results are clear, relationships keep us happier and healthier. Good, close, quality relationships. It’s not about the number of relationships, it’s about their quality. Relationships are messy and complicated, and they are hard work, but a good life is built with good relationships.
  • Be grateful. The deeper emotional state of appreciating and feeling thankful for someone or something shifts your perspective on life and produces long-lasting positivity.
  • Keep things in balance. Avoid extremes. They might seem exciting or easy/convenient on the surface, but they can in fact be harmful. Balance is a key element of a happy life.

Remember your thoughts and actions are very powerful:

  • Think long-term rather than short term. It’s not about feeling good about everything, always. It’s about developing a way of living, the skills required to build a meaningful life.
  • Be aware of your thoughts. Your brain has a hard time differentiating thoughts from reality, so your thoughts are as powerful as reality is. Choose carefully what reality you present to your brain, because that’s what will trigger actions.
  • Do things that you like. Deliberately organize your day-to-day life to include situations that allow positive emotional experiences to happen.
  • Add practice into our routine. Like any other skill, happiness must be put in practice through regular actions in order for us to get better at it. Invest in your habits to improve your overall happiness.

Everything we do in our life is to achieve one goal: happiness. Now we just have to turn that around, set the goal to be happy and do the things that actually make us happy.

If you achieve happiness, that's success. Being happy it’s being successful at achieving humanity’s main goal.

Happiness as a goal, not as a consequence - Happiness Digger
How I measure success? Before the pie was divided between money, job title, fame, cars, house. Now the pie shows happiness 100%.
Daniel Abrahams

Written by Andreea Pap

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