Success and Happiness: Can You Have One Without the Other?

In our pursuit of fulfilment, we often grapple with two concepts: success and happiness. And can you have one without the other?

These notions, though deeply intertwined, are frequently misunderstood and misrepresented in our societal narratives.

In this blog, I’ll unravel the layers of success and happiness, exploring their definitions, interdependencies, and the paths to achieving each in the context of our individual lives. We’ll examine the subjective nature of success, the essence of happiness, and how aligning our actions and values can lead to a harmonious balance between achieving our goals and finding contentment.

Defining Success

Success can have different meanings depending on who you ask.

Many equate success with wealth, status, and prestige.  Others view success as having financial stability, career advancement, or achieving goals.  

In the end, success is subjective. What one person considers successful may not align with another's definition.  

People often use measures like net worth, job title, and salary to define success.

However, success can equally refer to less tangible, personal metrics. These include being satisfied with your career and life, making progress on meaningful goals, using your talents, having great relationships, and other aspects unique to each person.  

Success, in subjective terms, depends on aligning your life with your values - what is truly most important to you. Feeling fulfilled and happy with your choices and life defines success from this perspective, and for me, this is the perspective that really matters the most.

So, while society often equates success with money and status, I believe success is the fulfilment that comes from aligning yourself with who you are and dedicating yourself to realising your true priorities.

Success is the answer to the question, “Am I doing with my life what I would be doing if no one was looking and if there was no one to please?”

If we want to raise a great family, then realising that is success for us. If we want to build a great business or have wealth, then that is success for us, and if we want to be of service to others, then that is success for us.

Whatever the pursuit, having it be a genuine one leads to success. And ultimate success is having the right balance in our life that represents having all the things that we most want – it is simply being the most fulfilled that we can be.

Defining Happiness

Happiness often shows up as a feeling of contentment, satisfaction, or fulfilment. It is a feeling state characterised by emotions ranging from peace and contentment to intense joy. Happiness is a state of being that might come about in relation to something on the outside but ultimately always comes from within.  

Happiness is often related to positivity, gratitude, or optimism. When we feel happy, we tend to see the world more positively. Happiness helps us appreciate what we have and enables us to enjoy life more.

However, happiness is not necessarily a permanent state. It can be fleeting and temporary.

We move in and out of happiness as our perceptions of our circumstances and resulting emotional states change. While we can sometimes experience intense happiness, these moments are usually short-lived. This is why many philosophers argue that the key to happiness is cultivating sustainable happiness - finding ways to generate more frequent feelings of serenity, joy, appreciation and contentment in our daily lives.

Sustainable happiness comes from within.

Sustainable happiness involves training our minds to focus on the positive, appreciate what we have right now, and live in the present moment. It's about finding happiness and meaning in our everyday lives. With practice, we can increase our baseline level of happiness and learn to maintain a peaceful state of mind more consistently.

Ultimately, happiness is a state of mind.

We can be happy under any circumstances, depending upon how we view them. We will be happier if we are geared to see the gifts and positive aspects of situations.

If we are geared to look for the negative or what is lacking, we will be unhappy no matter what we have or attain.

At the same time, the pursuit of doing what we love and having the things we most want can also contribute to happiness, as long as our happiness does not rely on the attachment to these things. In other words, we are the most happy when we appreciate what we have, but can also be equally happy even if we lose it.

Is Success Necessary for Happiness?

Success is often equated with wealth, status, and material possessions. This type of success provides the financial means to meet our needs and obtain our material desires that can contribute to happiness.  

Other factors like relationships, fulfilling purpose, and personal growth can also be strong contributors to happiness.

Achieving goals and deriving a sense of meaning are also key ingredients for a happy life. Working towards and achieving meaningful goals provides a sense of fulfilment. Having multiple inspiring aims gives life more depth and satisfaction.  

Success is defined as progress towards self-actualisation, and making a positive impact can lead to greater fulfilment.

Discovering what success means to us is truly important. Whether it be financial gain, career success, deep relationships, health and well-being, mastery in a particular subject, spiritual satisfaction, socialising, or making a difference, success is a key to happiness.  

As long as we don’t let others define success for us and don’t make our version right or wrong, success in the areas that are most critical for us can certainly contribute to overall happiness.

Is Happiness Necessary for Success?

Happiness is not necessary for achieving conventional markers of success like wealth, status, and accomplishments. However, happiness plays a key role in fostering behaviours promoting success.

Happiness fosters several qualities that aid achievement, like creativity, inspiration, and consistent action. When people feel satisfied and content, they are more inspired, energetic, and committed to their work.  

Happiness provides a positive outlook that fuels enthusiasm and effort.  A positive outlook and uplifting feelings broaden our thinking and build psychological resources for better coping with challenges on the path to success.

Some dissatisfaction and discontent can also drive people to achieve.

Striving to fulfil unmet needs through ambition and hard work is a common success motivator. This can be a good starting point for the path to success, as long as we let go of the dissatisfaction and it doesn’t become a recurring pattern. Ultimately, we want to start from a place of satisfaction. However, if we find ourselves not there, this can also be a good catalyst for starting change.

Ultimately, the necessity of happiness for success depends largely on how one defines success.

If success means fame, power, or wealth, happiness is not required but will help. It could be argued that this form of success on its own is not a real success, and I would tend to agree. However, it is a form of success that is widely accepted as the measure, and happiness is not necessarily required for it.

But if success means living meaningfully, fulfilling potential, or making a difference, cultivating happiness and life satisfaction is fundamental.  

For most, the greatest success involves both external achievements and inner fulfilment.

Achieving Both Success and Happiness

The key to achieving both success and happiness is finding the right balance for ourselves. It's important not to become too obsessed with external measures of achievement at the expense of inner fulfilment and joy.  

Consider what really matters to you and what makes you feel alive. Set goals aligned with your values and true priorities.

Avoid comparing yourself to others—there is only one you, and you are unique in what you bring to the world. Appreciate your accomplishments without making them the determinant of your self-worth. Recognise that happiness comes from within, not from external validation.

Make time for all your most important pursuits and loves. Celebrate small joys each day. Cultivate an appreciation for the blessings in your life.  

With a balanced perspective, achieving success and cultivating happiness and life satisfaction is possible. The two can co-exist when you keep perspective and prioritise both. It takes maintaining conscious awareness, but you can achieve your biggest dreams and desires while still finding contentment and being present in each moment.

In the end, the journey towards success and happiness is deeply personal and varies from one individual to another.

It's not about conforming to societal standards of wealth and status but rather about finding what truly resonates with our own personal values and aspirations.

Success and happiness are not mutually exclusive but are complementary aspects of a well-rounded life. By understanding and pursuing what genuinely fulfils us, we can craft a life that not only meets external benchmarks of success but also nurtures our inner well-being.

This balanced approach encourages us to appreciate our unique paths and fosters a sustainable form of happiness that enriches our existence.

If you found this information helpful, come and explore the Expand Community. This is where I help people transform their mindset and create the most fulfilling and powerful life they can. We apply all these tools we’ve been talking about so you can make a difference in your life and the world around you.

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