Success Is Not Happiness: Why Success and Satisfaction Are Not Synonymous

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”  - Albert Schweitzer

We can probably all think of someone who seemed to have it all, but didn’t attain happiness. After all, even winning the lottery doesn’t make you happy. Famous examples abound, of course. You may not know that Frank Sinatra attempted suicide twice and Andre Aggasi hated his life as a tennis all star.

So, what gives? University of Texas at Austin business professor Raj Raghunathan watched his MBA friends achieve great success and yet little happiness, which led him to research this phenomenon and publish his findings in a new book: If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Happy?

In Raghunathan’s April interview in The Atlantic he talks about why being educated, rich and accomplished doesn’t correlate to happiness.  He says much of this has to do with mindset and motivation. Successful people are often driven by external motivators and external validation. Raghunathan believes putting a priority on achieving superiority, high salary or public accolades is putting the cart before the horse in relation to happiness.

He says, “When you don't need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing, and you're good at, and if you just focus on that for a long enough time, then chances are very, very high that you're going to progress towards mastery anyway, and the fame and the power and the money and everything will come as a byproduct, rather than something that you chase directly in trying to be superior to other people.”

According to Raghunathan, people are hardwired to be outcome oriented, due to what he calls a “scarcity mindset,” or a deep seeded genetic propensity to achieve survival goals. But in modern times, process goals simply make more sense and bring more satisfaction.

Raghunathan says, “Ultimately, what we need in order to be happy is at some level pretty simple. It requires doing something that you find meaningful that you can kind of get lost in on a daily basis…. Stop tethering your happiness to outcomes.”

In his Time Article, 7 Ways You’re Thwarting Your Own Happiness, he gives specific tips on getting back on track to happiness.

First and foremost he recommends reorienting your priorities by no longer devaluing happiness and overvaluing superiority. He claims that our obsession with being better is a “happiness killer.” Another barrier to happiness?  Trying to control everything.

Once you remove the roadblocks, Raghunathan offers three proactive approaches to get back on the happiness track:

  • Keep a gratitude journal, which is proven improve well being.
  • Embrace altruism, also backed by research in regards to making you happier.
  • And finally, take responsibility for your joy because victims of circumstance are never centered in well being.

As the “Happiest Man in the World” says, well being is represented by the deep water, which remains stable, regardless of what waves or tumult occurs at the surface. It is in this deep water, below circumstance, where well being resides.

Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited