SUCCESS VS. HAPPINESS?
Historically, success, particularly in the Western World, has always been viewed as the most important road to personal happiness. But in our research, we find it to be relatively unimportant.
Certainly, success and the achievement of one’s goals contributes to happiness. Indeed research cited in Volume I, provide ample evidence toward such a conclusion. And if one can accomplish all one’s hopes and ambitions in life, there is little doubt that a degree of greater happiness will follow.
But to what degree? That has been the question posed in this chapter…
Our discussion of Fundamental Six suggests a number of important conclusions in this regard. We’ve seen how high expectations tend to lead to disappointment — not just in day-to-day situations, but especially with long-term goals. We’ve seen that our culture places an undue emphasis on accomplishment and goal-achievement — and that, in many cases, the realization of goals doesn’t seem to add as much to our happiness as we might have hoped. We’ve indicated how heart-aching it can be to stake one’s happiness on dreams that might never come true. And we’ve seen how self- defeating it is to strive for goals that are far above one’s ability to reach.
We’ve also seen, ironically, how happy people seem to end-up where most of us would like to be, though they lack the burning ambition to be there. Though their ambitions are lower, they tend to succeed much more. Though their skills are greater, they tend to shoot for more modest goals. They tend to get most everything they wish for in life, but this is partly because they want what they can realistically get.
Yet, mostly, we see a picture of the happy person wherein success doesn’t matter all that much. In the happiest people we’ve studied, just “being” seems a happy enough state of affairs. It is, simply, the everyday things that make for their happiness. It is as if each and every day was the focus of their happiness. Certainly, they have their hopes and plans for the future — but they are not counting on them to make them happy. They know that the real secret for happiness lies in “today.” They understand that “happiness is a way to travel, not a place to arrive.”
In sum, as counter intuitive as this Fundamental might sound, happiness research indicates you might be much happier if you could “Lower Your Expectations and Aspirations,” and base your happiness more on what you have now, than what you might achieve.