Happiness and Success

Have you ever wondered whether success leads to happiness or happiness leads to success?

The question is like a very old puzzle: Which came first – the seed or the tree?

Here are five randomly selected quotes on happiness:

  1. Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like.
  2. The less you care what others think, the happier you will be.
  3. The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go.
  4. Happiness is not out there, it is in you.
  5. Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.

And here are five on success:

  1. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
  2. Success does not lie in “results” but in “efforts.” “Being” the best is not so important. “Doing” the best is all that matters.
  3. Push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.
  4. Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.
  5. If you want to be successful in this world, you must follow your passion. Not your paycheck.

With ten quotes, are you any the wiser?

Let me tell you a story.

The longest study on happiness is in its 83rd year. For over eight decades, a team of scientists has been studying people from all strata of society. Every year, medical tests are carried out on the volunteers. Simple questions are asked. Responses are recorded. The first results were made public only after 50 years.

Here are the results, if you can swallow it:

  1. The relationship between happiness and wealth is non-existent.
  2. The single greatest predictor of happiness are the support structures around you – loved ones, family, friends, community, a sense of belonging, not afraid to seek help, not hesitant to provide help.

Success is measurable – whatever the yardstick you choose. You choose to break a habit. You start waking up at 5 AM and go for a walk. In so far as both the time and the distance you cover are measurable, you can claim to be successful in the task of getting up early and going for a walk.

Or you choose to think that money equals success. You lead a purposeful life. You work hard, you are educated, you make a career, save wisely, invest even more wisely, and the power of compounding ensures you will reach your “money” goal. You have succeeded but are you happy?

Share your thoughts, there is absolute psychological safety here. What do I think?

Success is an external phenomenon. You cannot “imagine” to be a doctor unless you go through the rigorous courses, pass all the exams, and the world (or a university) certifies you as a doctor. You cannot be in any profession (there are some exceptions but let us not get distracted) through a self-proclamation. Thus, if your measure of success is wealth, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos are your role models. If your measure of success is service, Mother Theresa is your role model. If your measure of success is peace and tranquility, The Dalai Lama is your role model.

Happiness is an internal phenomenon. You can be happy when you have had a good meal and you can be happy when you must miss a meal. It is entirely up to you. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be happy. You can be alone and be happy.

Success is a different proposition. You need an entire Eco-system for you to succeed. World class athletes need coaches, physio-therapists, nutrition specialists, fitness experts – it is a very complex Eco-system. Its architecture is modular. The failure of one part can render success into a mirage.

A music virtuoso needs a teacher. If you want to be a vocalist, you need to work with instrumentalists, sound engineers, voice therapists, breathing experts – another complex, modular system. Any component can turn your surefire success into the worst nightmare.

Why not make it simpler?

Happiness is a necessary condition for success.

Success is not a sufficient condition for happiness.

Now tell me. Which will you pursue?

Success or happiness?





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