Success and Happiness

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As many of the loyal readers and frequent visitors of the blog may know, it’s been on a hiatus. Or rather, I’ve been on a hiatus as I finished the final stretch of gradschool. The end of gradschool included completing my thesis, a final case presentation, and finishing up the work I’ve been doing counseling elementary school children for the year. I am now, officially a Master of Social Work, and since graduating, I’ve been thinking a lot about careers and success. I am about to truly begin my career as a counselor/social worker/therapist. Something I’ve wanted to do since I was 12 or 13.

After watching this video this morning, I realize that success is a journey, not a destination. Just as one accomplishment ends, another quickly comes into view. Desire and ambition doesn’t end, (or should only end with the end of one’s life). Success is not a place that you arrive to, although when we are working towards a goal, it can certainly feel that way.  It is easy to think that once we accomplish one goal, our lives will change. Your life will change, but it is always changing. I just finished graduate school, and while I feel proud, accomplished, relieved, I also now have another chapter to begin. A new goal to work towards, new insecurities, new stressors as I begin to worry about how I will maintain my work/life balance. I realize that because success is a journey, not a destination, I cannot put my life on hold while I work to achieve a goal. This is life. This is it. This moment is all we have. We must enjoy the journey, and enjoy the ride along the way because it’s all there is.

One point made in this video by the author of “Before Happiness” is that those who are happy, tend to be more successful. Research shows that contrary to what logic tells us, success doesn’t actually make us happy. Happy comes first, and success follows. This reinforces the concept that everything starts within (I’ve written about this before). Work hard, but make sure that your work gives you fulfillment, not just money. My hope, as I begin the next chapter in my life is that my work feeds and nurtures me. I hope that my work contributes to my sense of meaning and fulfillment, that it pushes me to grow, and learn. My hope is that I remember success is about the journey, and this is my hope for you all, as well.

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Is Wealth A Burden?

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I read an interesting article in Vanity Fair magazine the other day about Perfection Anxiety, and it discussed how extreme wealth may actually be a burden. The article proposes that when money is limitless, it ceases to make one happy. We’ve all fantasized about winning the lottery, (I know I have) and becoming rich beyond our wildest imaginations. Rich enough to quit our 9 to 5ers, rich enough to buy that expensive sports car or take your friends to a fancy dinner….every night. What if this fantasy was just that, and if extreme wealth was really a burden?

Statistics show that money does make you happier, but only up to about $50,000/year. After that, the more money you have, the less it matters. Think of it this way, if you gave a starving man a cheeseburger, that one cheeseburger would make him really happy. If you gave a starving man 2 cheeseburgers, the second probably wouldn’t make him as happy as the first, but it may make him a little bit happier in comparison to how happy he felt after the first one. If you gave a starving man 8 cheeseburgers, he would not feel 8 times happier than he did after the first one. It’s the same with money. Money can give you the things that you need and want, and this will make you happier, however only to a certain extent.

            The Vanity Fair article explains that when one has too much money, it “stops working” to make you happier. I wrote a post about happiness and how we don’t just want to experience happiness, but we also want to achieve it. In fact, in order to feel truly happy, we must also experience sadness in contrast. Think of how happy and excited you feel when you buy something you’ve been lusting after for a while, something you’ve saved up for. Think of how grateful we feel when a loved one buys us a present we’ve really wanted for a long time; that high you get when you get that new iPhone or super nice yoga mat. Now, imagine you could buy anything you wanted, always and forever, and suddenly that excitement, anticipation, gratitude is lost. It’s important to have goals, things we can’t yet attain, because we feel a sense of pleasure in working towards these goals and then a sense of accomplishment when we reach a goal.

If you are among the extremely wealthy, I’m sorry. Let me know if I’ve gotten it wrong. If you are not among the extremely wealthy, you get to take this moment to be grateful that you can still derive pleasure from things. We get to feel grateful that we have things to work for, presents to give, and get, and we can still derive simple pleasure from saving up for a special treat. And remember, winning the lottery probably won’t solve your problems, so enjoy the moment : ) Happy Weekend!

Can Money and Success Satisfy the Soul?

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I was thinking about this the other day as my graduate school nears the end and I begin thinking about my future career. There are so many choices to weigh as far as careers go, especially in the psychology/social work field. Should I choose a job that pays well but is not so enjoyable, so that my day-to-day may be a little less joyful, but I’m able to afford vacations, self-care, nice dinners out. ? Which will make me happier, or is there a balance? Continue reading