A bit ago, I sat at our kitchen table having dinner with my sons and some of their friends (all in their 20’s). I asked them, “What is success?” Someone burst out “a Lamborghini.” Another said, “a lot of money… a house… doing a double cork off a cliff (on a snowboard).” And so it went until my oldest son said, “The CEO of Sanyo was really successful…until he committed suicide.” Hmmm. Pause.
And thus the question turned to “what is the relationship between success and happiness?” For them, and I think for and many of us, the answers become more complicated.
So, I sit here writing this blog thinking about how and why our culture is so driven by achievement, accomplishment and material acquisition as our definition of success – yet in every reliable and valid study that I’ve read, when people are asked to choose between success and happiness, fame and happiness, status and happiness, wealth and happiness, power and happiness – happiness is chosen by 85-90% of people.
Robert Holden, a renowned psychologist and writer from England shares that in his research, the only values that are often chosen equally to happiness are love, authenticity and health.
What this says to me is that we desire to live through our core human values (love, health, honesty, joy) versus external validation (power, status, wealth, fame) yet somehow our inner voice often gets overwhelmed by the much busier, louder external world.
And that external world voice loves to feel like its in charge. It takes courage and commitment to live by our deeper values. And, numerous research studies show that when we prioritize our core values in our daily choices and decisions, the external rewards can still come (we just may or may not care so much) We are contented inside around how we live.
However, when we allow the external drivers to be in charge, the only place we may get is further from our own knowing and internal connection. Often this results in incidents of depression, anxiety, stress, addiction and/or poor physical health.
These choices and decisions about how we define success are not loud or black and white. They are the culmination of many, many small steps.
So what might happen to all of our decision making if for a few minutes every day this week, we slowed down, quietly relaxed and focused on breathing in and out the internal value we most want to embody. And then, in a journal each day, we courageously wrote down what success was to us from an internal /values-centered place – this day, this week, this year…? And then we wrote down something for which we were grateful?
How may our daily choices around success and happiness impact the generations behind us as they pattern their behavior after our own?
May success come to embody our deeper knowing and contentment first – and may we daily live with love and joy – and allow all of their benefits to unfold.