Success or Happiness?
Mental Edge Monday
Topic #40: Success or Happiness?
If there was a choice between two buttons: a "Success" button and a "Happiness" button, which would you choose for yourself?
At first glance, I immediately felt like I would hit the "happiness" button. Who wouldn't? Who could argue against being happy? But in reality, how happy could you be if you were a habitual failure or moved through life in perfect mediocrity?
I know it's a contrived question, but I hope it gives you some food for thought.
The Happiness Argument:
If someone could wave a magic wand over your head and say "Voila! You will hereby be happy from this moment on" - that would be nice (unrealistic, but nice). But isn't happiness usually pegged to some kind of success? It doesn't have to stem from acing the SATs or landing that big promotion, but doesn't one usually lead to the other?
If there's no success, what would you be so happy about? Is it realistic to live a happy life with no success in it?
Doesn't happiness come from overcoming challenges, inspiring someone, or achieving something you thought was impossible? Where else would happiness flow from?
The Success Argument:
Most of us know that "success" does not always lead to happiness, but it does seem to give us more control of whether or not we choose to be happy. At least we have a choice in the matter.
Success typically breeds self-esteem, confidence, and a leg up in society at large. Whether or not we use these traits to create a happy life is up to us.
Clearly, success can also have a dark underbelly. If achieving success becomes an addiction or a way to prove something to someone or something, we start down a very slippery slope. As we all know, there are plenty of successful people who are extremely unhappy.
What about your children?
Does the answer to this question change as it relates to your children? Which button would you choose for them? Let them do whatever they want as long as they're "happy" and let the chips fall where they may later in life?
Or do you help them succeed (even if it means tantrums about 6am swim practice) so that they ultimately can achieve happiness, in part, because of their successes?
If I were a bettin' man, I'd put my money on success - both personally and for my children. I always prefer choice to no choice. To be successful means that we would at least have the choice, of our own free will, to be happy or not. It would be up to us. It doesn't work the other way around.
To be just "happy" with nothing backing it up or supporting the feeling, seems like a false premise.
I know these concepts are deeply intertwined and there is no clear (or right) answer, but I had fun thinking about them.
What's your take on success versus happiness? Or their points of intersection or divergence?
Until next week, Keep the Edge.
Phil Black (FitDeck Founder)