Why Success Doesn’t Make You (That Much) Happier
Overcoming the trap of modern society.
You’re supposed to want to be the best.
Wanting and expecting anything less than the best from yourself goes against the very essence of what you’ve been told life is all about.
Progress toward goals is supposed to be the single most important quality in determining the quality of your life.
But is it really?
Is life really just going from one pursuit to the other, grinding away at monotonous till you die?
Is that all there is?
The answer is complicated, but these are the questions that have been keeping me up at night lately, and the lack of sleep is making the already exhausting habits I have to maintain to chase my goals even more exhausting.
I’m starting to think that success alone is not what I actually want out of life, and in my circle, I feel like that makes me weird.
I feel like the only person in my inner circle who doesn’t want to constantly chase success, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m still constantly chasing success.
Life isn’t always a hero’s journey.
I’ve always loved “hero’s journey” novels, like The Alchemist, The Hunger Games, or the Harry Potter books.
They follow a traditional story arch that’s easy to follow. The hero does a thing, he becomes a better person, gets the girl, and then he lives happily ever after.
Life is nice when you’re a hero.
Real life, on the other hand, is different.
Real life has some “heroes’ journeys”, but it also has a lot of other things happening too. In real life, you have bills (I’ve never once heard Harry Potter discuss his 401k), you have responsibilities, and you have this horrible thing called “limits” following you around that heroes don’t seem to have in books and movies.
When I’m training Jiu-Jitsu and my body is breaking down, my muscles are spasming, and I’m completely at my limit, it’s really hard to feel like I’m the Rocky Balboa of Jiu-Jitsu.
You need to find another way.
Real life is more complicated than just trying to be the hero all the time.
Real life has subtle nuances and complexities that many of our foundational stories do not account for, and this leads many of us down the wrong pathways for how we want to spend our lives.
I thought I had to win to be happy.
For my entire life, I thought that after achieving certain goals, I’d finally have peace and happiness.
I thought that once I won more Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, I’d make more money and be happy.
I thought that once I started dating my dream girl, I’d never feel lonely again.
I thought that once I got 1 million eyes on my writing, I’d be a successful writer.
This is the trap of modern society. We convince each other that in everything we do, we need more to be happy.
You need another championship. You need to write another bestseller. You need to date a hotter girlfriend and drive a fancier car.
These were the things that I thought were going to make me happy.
In reality, all I was doing was pushing the goalpost on allowing myself to feel content and happy in my life. I was chronically unhappy with my progress because I thought that the only way that I’d be worthy of love, happiness, and satisfaction was through achieving more and more stuff.
In my own way, I was getting lost in my own sort of trap.
You can have your goals AND be happy too, it’s just a little harder.
There is a better way to go about it.
The thing is that while success won’t make you happier in the long term, it’s easier to pursue the things that will make your life happier and more fulfilling when you are also immersed in goals and pursuits that you are connected to.
Goals are a component of happiness, but are not the whole pie.
The biggest existential mistake that most people make is thinking that their success will be the cause of their happiness.
It won’t, and if you don’t address this issue, your success is actually going to make you more miserable than you were before. When this happens, life starts to look grim and feel miserable — no matter what you do.
Everyone constantly talks about “achieving their dreams”, but then we’re confused when our achievements make us unhappy. This is because our approach to life is incomplete.
Success can help make you happy, but the things in your life that will really make your life “happy” do not come from conquering goals and overcoming the human condition.
Happiness is mostly about love, and we forget that because we’re scared to love. We’re scared to be vulnerable.
“If you have no love, do what you will — go after all the gods on earth, do all the social activities, try to reform the poor, the politics, write books, write poems — you are a dead human being.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
Happiness is simple. We just make it complicated.
To me, a happy life boils down to just a few key components, several of which are articulated in this quote:
“A fit body, a calm mind, a house full of love. These things cannot be bought — they must be earned.” — Naval Ravikant
You can’t get “a fit body, a calm mind, and a house full of love” just by trying to be successful by the conventional definition of success that society portrays in the media. You have to be different.
Most of us say we want to be sports champions, bestselling writers, and million-dollar business leaders, but I’m not sure how many people are saying that because it’s what they want and how many people are saying that because it’s what they were told to want.
I mean, think about it.
If you had your physical health, a calm mind that is content, and a home full of people who love and care about you regardless of what you’re driving or making, what else would you really need?
You’d probably find that many of your “goals” would fade into oblivion.
What would you do then?
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