When all is said and done, success without happiness is the worst kind of failure. – Rabbi Louis Binstock (lots of quotes, hardly any bio info – any ideas?)
What does that mean?
Can you be successful and miserable at the same time? Oh yeah! Not fun at all. What good is all the success in the world if you are unhappy? On the other hand, if you aren’t happy, can you even count what you have as a success, or is it more accurately labeled as a failure?
Looking at it another way, I would associate success with being happy, and associate failure with being unhappy. Can you define success without happiness? I have tried and cannot do it without tying words into knots trying to dance around the “h” word. So success without happiness isn’t really success, but is instead, failure. Just look at all the musicians who took themselves out when at the top of their game – fame, fortune, fans & world tours; but no happiness.
Why is happiness important?
Happiness is pretty much the reward, the motivation, for humans. We strive to be happy and do the things we think and hope will bring it to us. Some of these things are impressed on us by society (whether it’s based on parental teachings, religion, societal norms or advertisements), and others are self directed. I’m sure you know, as I do, people who went their own way to look for happiness, going against their parents, religion, society and rejecting the standard consumerism of the day. You might even know one or two who found happiness, by their definition.
What constitutes “happiness” is different for each person. That’s part of why a “happy marriage” is so rare, especially after you add kids into the mix. However, happiness is always available, even if you are having trouble finding it. The problem, I’m afraid, is on the human side. Happiness is a state of mind, and we, the human, choose to either be in a state of happiness or to be somewhere else.
Where can I apply this in my life?
The definition of happiness is as individual as the definition of beauty, and relies on many of the same foundations. In America, there’s the American Dream, with 2 cars, 2 kids, a dog, a white picket fenced house in the suburbs with big trees and extra-green grass. Or at least it was in the 50’s. As time changes, society changes, and so does the definition of happiness.
Many people’s happiness is combined with their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and their world view. And it will likely change over the years. Happiness is being single. Happiness is being a couple. Happiness is having a house full of little ones. Happiness is seeing them off, on their own, and having the house back.
But as long as we look to things outside of ourselves, we will never be truly happy. We may touch happiness for a brief time, but even that will fade if it comes from without. As the shiny new toy becomes dull, so does the happiness it brought. Whether it’s a car, a friend, a tech-toy or whatever, it won’t make you happy forever. Some people go through boy-friends (or girl-friends) for just that reason. Others turn to chemicals to provide the feeling of happiness, but that doesn’t last either.
Where do we find our own happiness, then? Get out the paper and make a list of the 10 happiest times in you life (10 or more, in no particular order). Leave some space by each one, because each will be examined in some detail.
For each item on your list put down why it made you happy. If it was the birth of a child, why was that a happy moment? Were you happy as the parent, happy to be un-pregnant, happy for the baby, happy to have an addition to the family, happy they were healthy, or were you happy because you were expected to be happy?
Now examine your answers and make sure they are more than one word. At least make them a complete sentence, presuming it starts with “__event__ made me happy because…”. Do you see a pattern? Are most of the events external? Many will be, but is your reason for being happy also external or is it internal? Having a baby (speaking as a father) is an external event, but being happy because I have a new lifelong connection is an internal feeling. Graduation is an external event, but being happy about the accomplishment is an internal feeling.
Go back through your list and see if there are internal reasons for the things that made you happy. Most of us could probably give a few different reasons any one event made us happy. But if you first thought for every single one was related to it’s new-ness or shiny-ness, then you may have an external fixation for your source of happiness.
If that is the case, I would look through the revised list and look for a pattern in the internal happiness references. Is there a common thread through some of them? Things like service to others, helping, accomplishing, teaching, just to name a few, can help you find a pattern to help you plan a happier life.
Whatever it is that helps you find happiness, do it more often. Find ways to be involved with groups of people that allow you to exercise your skills to help you be happier. If pounding nails makes you happy, it can be a hobby or a profession. You could also volunteer to help fix up houses for those who can’t, or even help with scratch builds with groups like Habitat for Humanity.
Success is no more permanent than failure, and they are both impostors. Both of them are simply outcomes of events – no different other than the label we place on them, based on our preferences for the outcome. Learn to place your happiness inside of yourself, in things you can control, and you will have happiness at your fingertips for the rest of your life.