How we define success defines how happy we can be

How we define success defines how happy we can be

Success and happiness can co-exist, depending on your personal definition of success.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines the word success as a favorable or desired outcome; or the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.  But with a closer look, one may think the two definitions are not necessarily the same.

Of course, those with wealth, favor and eminence are viewed as successful people and there those that fit that description in all walks of life, professionally and personally.  But there are many who believe themselves to be successful with none of those attributes.  At least not visible on the surface.

Success, as it is said about beauty, is often in the “eye of the beholder,” but can also be in the heart of the human, metaphorically.  If one is happy with his or her station in life as it is today, they can view themselves as successful, despite not being rich or famous.

Unfortunately, today’s values for the most part do not recognize those who are happy with what they have achieved as successful.  We all must continue to strive for more, as if that next $100 we can gather will put us over the top and lead to perpetual happiness.  However, once we achieve that hilltop, there is another that we must now summit if we want to be truly happy.  And so it goes, over and over again.

There is nothing wrong with ambition, and that is what makes some people happy in the first place, not the achievement itself, but the opportunity to proceed to the next level.  For those, the pursuit of the goal is the ultimate happiness.

But some are happy with a decent-paying job, a modest home and a growing family.  Not to say they wouldn’t like to have more, but they don’t have a desire to have less of what they now have to achieve it.  Some would call that lack of ambition, but it may be considered an excess of happiness instead.

A father could work a second job or longer hours at his current job and accumulate more cash, but he would have to sacrifice the time he spends with his family to do so.  A mother could take a job outside of the home, but it may cost the opportunity of seeing her child’s first step, or their school play, or a recognition for writing a winning essay.

Each individual must decide for themselves which is more important, the larger house, the bigger boat, or the quality time with the family.  And it’s not always a zero-sum game.  Sometimes careful financial planning can allow parents to do both, and that is great.  But a parent must always carefully weigh all the options, instead of chasing the ever-higher bar of success.

Individuals can also fall into the trap of chasing success to the point where they one day look back and find they are alone in life, and wonder if all the late-night hours at the office were worth it all.

Workaholics view those who choose other options as lazy and unmotivated, while those who chose to live within their means view workaholics as insane and fiercely driven, and neither understands why the other feels as they do.

It is all in the way you personally define success.  And that word has as many definitions as there are individuals.  And to add even more complexity, that individual’s view of success may well change over time, so what is important now may be secondary later in life.

Do you feel as if you are successful in life?  Depends on your current definition.  This would be a good time to take inventory.

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