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Success and Happiness

The age-old question of what defines success and happiness has been constantly in my mind over the last little while. The whole subject originally came up when I re-watched American Beauty a few weeks ago. This brilliant movie was an extreme eye-opener for me. It’s one of the few “real” movies ever made where people can actually relate and learn life lessons from. First I want to explain the difference between happiness and pleasure by quoting Karolyn’s friend Cartesian_Theatre I think he makes a really good point in his statement:

I think there is a distinction between pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is a sensation–contrasted with pain. It generally has as beginning and an end. Happiness is more an overall pro-judgment on your life. You can be happy without having a specific occurent pleasure, and you can have a pleasure without being happy. It’s far easier to know what will bring you pleasure than what will bring you happiness.

In my opinion, happiness often comes from success. But success does not necessarily breed happiness. I also think success in life is different than financial success, and the two are often not one in the same.

My definition of success may differ from others. I don’t think any monetary worth or income defines success. To me to be successful is to be doing something with your life that you are passionate about, that brings your pleasure, and gives you a sense of self worth. If you make a lot of money but you hate your job or you feel moral inadequacy about what you do, you may have a lot of money but in my mind you are not successful and happiness will be a lot more difficult to achieve. If you have achieved financial success by slaving yourself and neglecting your family and friends in the process, I don’t consider that to be success. If you are doing something you feel good about, and you still make time for your family and friends, that is success to me and you are one step closer to achieving happiness. You may be making a million dollars a year, or you may be making $10 an hour; either way I would consider you to be successful if you have achieved what I stated above.

I think that a lot of the time, monetary rewards come when you are doing something you are passionate about and feel good about. If you are doing something solely for money, you will not be successful by my standards, and you won’t achieve happiness. The exception to this is the people that take the money they have made and do good things with the money to help others.

If you care more about your material things than people or the world, you will never be satisfied, you may have temporary pleasures, but you will never achieve happiness.