Being successful does not mean you are happy


Success leads to happiness. It’s the formula presented from a young age, passed from parents to children who soon adopt the mantra as their own.

No longer is success defined as a nice house, a good job, a spouse and 2.4 children; success is whatever you want it to be and when you get what you’re striving for, you’ll be happy. Unfortunately this is a broken formula.

The number of successes required to get into university is astronomical. You need to learn how to talk, read, write and behave to get good grades to get a job and earn money.

We’ve had so many successes, so many accomplishments, that we should be overflowing with joy. But we’re not; when people ask us how we’re doing the answer is rarely “happy”. So what’s stopping us?

What helped evolution is the same thing keeping us all miserable or mediocre at best: adaption.

Although the achieved success may be exciting for a moment, we immediately look towards the next thing we need to achieve to be happy. The success quickly becomes the norm, replaced by the stresses of the new goal we define as success.

We never get to the end goal because we’re constantly changing our idea of what success is. It’s not a goal, but a moving target.

As soon as you get into university you start worrying about grades. As soon as you graduate, you need to worry about finding a job. There is always a next step. Yet there are people who are happy, and these people have varying levels of success behind them. Their method is simple, reverse the formula.

Society needs to change the communal thought process and realize that happiness leads to success, not the reverse. If you can make yourself happy without success as a prerequisite, studies indicate you are more likely to find success. Unlike success, happiness has a state we can all identify as a feeling, even if we’ve only felt it for a few seconds.

The best part is that happiness is something we can all achieve; it’s a mindset, not a concrete thing to be obtained. It’s dependent on whether you want it, not on past success.

Happiness is a choice, a lens we can choose to view the world through. The brain works roughly 20 per cent more efficiently when it’s ‘happy’ compared to any other state.

This is the result of simple biology. Actively trying to be happy releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. In addition to being involved in pleasure, increased dopamine is correlated to an increase in goal driven behaviour.

It’s that simple; try to be happy, increase dopamine and naturally want to achieve your goals.

Clearly society has it wrong. Success does not lead to happiness but rather, happiness leads to success.No longer do we need to be stuck with clouds over our heads and worry in our hearts.

We just need to wake up every day deciding that it’s going to be an awesome day; with that mindset, success will follow.


By Leah Dejong

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