Success is often considered the ultimate goal, something most people strive for. We work hard, sacrifice time with family and our hobbies, and hopefully achieve success, which is usually defined as wealth, status, power, or recognition. But why, despite these achievements, doesn’t success always bring happiness? In fact, in some cases, success can lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
One reason is that people create unrealistic expectations on the journey to success. They fool themselves into believing that their lives will be perfect once they have achieved success and will be happy ever after. The problem is goalposts change along the way. Remember when you bought your first new car or house? You probably thought you’d reached the pinnacle of achievement, but after a year or two, your car felt small, underpowered, and less of the status symbol it had been, and your colleague's houses seemed more prestigious and in better neighborhoods. Success has a habit of drifting farther away just when you think you have it in your grasp.
Success depends on how you personally define it. There is no one-size-fits-all definition of success. Financial success doesn’t bring everyone happiness; fulfillment is more important for some people. For others, success is defined by being in a healthy relationship and having a comfortable home life rather than working long hours climbing to the top of the career ladder.
However you define it, success does not guarantee happiness; realizing this can bring disappointment and lead to emptiness, boredom, and a persistent sense that something is missing. Striving for success requires dedication, hard work, and long hours, and this can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. You may feel like you are on top of your career or have reached what you felt was your ultimate success goal, but at the same time, you feel alone and that no one understands what you are going through or that you have no one with whom to share your success.
Success is a slippery bedfellow; the more you try to maintain your position, the more anxiety and stress you may experience. When success is defined by material things such as money, possessions, or career progression, there is constant pressure to perform and succeed. This can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of burnout and exhaustion. Even when you feel that you have achieved your goals, a lack of motivation can kick in if you don’t see the point of striving for more.
Personal fulfillment comes from within. It is related to your values, relationships, and sense of life purpose. When you achieve success but do not have these internal dynamics, you are likely to feel empty and unfulfilled. Focus on what truly brings you joy, not external markers of success; only then will you be able to lead a fulfilling and happy life, which is the true measure of success.