Success Won’t Make You Happy

There is a prevalent myth in our society that we will be happy when we are successful. I say that it is a myth because it is. Success, in the form that most people think of it, will not being happiness. Promotions (above a low level) won’t make you happy. Nor will a new car, watch, house or pair of shoes. Having 200K subscribers won’t make you happier, nor will landing that big project.

The fact is, most of what people think of as success won’t make them any happier. This is beause of a concept called Hedonic Adaptation. The human mind is very good at adapting to anything. In fact, it does not sense absolutes, only changes. The effect of this is that, no matter what changes there are to your lifestyle*, within a year maximum, you will be just as happy as you were before.

Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. – Neil Gaiman

So if you aren’t going to be happy when you are successful, when can you be happy? There are, I believe, two changes you can make, both of which ultimately lead to the same thing.

The first is to accept that the goal won’t make you happy in itself, but the process of aiming for it, developing yourself in order to reach that goal, will make you happy. For example, having 200K subscribers or followers won’t make you happy, but it will force you to develop your skills and force you to get more “flow”  which will definitely make you more happy.

The second is to redefine success so that it will really make you happy. It has been proven that having positive relationships in your life makes you happier, as does exercise and spending time in nature. In addition, helping others is a surefire way to increase your own life satisfaction. If you redefine your measure of success to include things that really will make you happy, then each step you make towards it will make you happier.

Take a second and think about what you are aiming for, and why. Success won’t make you happy, unless success is being happy.


If the idea of rethinking success is attractive to you, take a look at my article on Success as Eudaimonia.