We all dream of happiness and we know that its synonymous with success. Succeed and you will be happy. Hit the pinnacle. Scale the summit. We dream of clawing our way up past the others who compete against us to reach the rarified atmosphere known to only a few successful people. We all want to attain those dizzying heights and will do anything to achieve them. I haven’t lived very long, but I’ve seen people do some pretty despicable things to get ahead and then despair at the fact that most of the time, even that isn’t enough.
I’ve also seen people give up and lie by the road, despairing at their inability to get ahead of the pack. People bowed down by the weight of life, crushed by their dreams, instead of being buoyed up by them. There is sadness and despair on both ends of the spectrum, which is ironic since the quest is to be happy.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want to succeed – it’s what drives evolution. If we didn’t explore our boundaries and constantly push at the limits we wouldn’t be worthy of life and some other species would rise to dominate the world. That’s just how it is. But we don’t all have to excel in exactly the same way. What gets me down and also surprises me about the world is how much people leave the definition of success – and therefore the key to their own happiness – to other people.
To most people, ‘success’ is very specific – most of them have to do with reaching life goals. There’s usually one or two in every sphere of life – be a CEO / doctor / engineer / other professional. Fall in love. Get married. Have kids. Have a car. Own a house. People think that these are all good goals to have. Indeed, all of society believes this. And for me to say that they’re not good goals would be wrong.
That’s because there are no such things as good goals, objectively speaking. There are good goals for you and me and for individual people, yes – but discovering what that is – what will make you happy and content and keep you going, is what life is all about. The minute you abdicate the responsibility of finding out what that is, and accept someone else’s definitions of success as the goalposts for your life, you will set off on the path to unhappiness.
The only real goal of life is to find out what makes you truly happy and that begins with examining yourself to find out what makes you tick. Experiment with your life. Try new things. Push the envelope. If you just accept what someone else says will bring you happiness, then you’re putting your chance for happiness on the odds of them being right. Those are not good odds!
Over time, the realization will come that you are happy even if you haven’t (yet) succeeded at accomplishing whatever goal you’ve set for yourself. That happiness is the one that’s worth having.