Whitney Houston was one of the most celebrated and successful vocalists of all time, with numerous chart-topping hits and awards to her name. Nevertheless, her life was marred by a tumultuous relationship, substance abuse, and personal struggles. Her untimely death in 2012 was a stark reminder of the complexities of fame and success. Grace, on the other hand, was a technology whiz and highly successful in this male dominated field. She felt like a stranger in her own life. She could not remember when she last took a real vacation. Her colleagues admired her, but they did not truly know her. Naomi had propelled her company to new heights, but she had neglected her personal life in the process. She had a demanding job, and her career had left little time for family, friends, or self-care. Loneliness and exhaustion left her yearning for a life beyond the office walls. All these successes had come at a cost! Was the cost too high?
Success has long been the driving force behind many pursuits and ambitions. You are taught from a young age that success is the key to your happiness, fulfillment, and a life well-lived. You are told that if you work hard, set goals, and achieve your dreams, you will find the happiness you seek. However, many who have achieved success can attest that the relationship between success and happiness is far more complex. Within societies, there exists an illusion of success. Success is frequently equated with material wealth, fame, and social status.
These are external markers of success that are visible, measurable, and readily accessible goals. But this narrow definition of success can lead you down a path that ultimately leaves you in misery! But why?
• Pursuit of Perfection: Too often you set impossibly high standards for yourself creating a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction and self-criticism. Success becomes a fleeting moment that is quickly overshadowed by your desire for more, better, and bigger accomplishments.
• Lonely Journey: Achieving your greatness often requires relentless dedication leading to social isolation. You sacrifice personal relationships, hobbies, and even your own well being. You reach the summit of success alone with few “meaningful” connections left to share your achievements.
• External Validation: You frequently seek approval, recognition, and admiration from others. This validation can provide a temporary boost to your self-esteem, but it is a weak foundation for long-term happiness. Your happiness should not be dependent on the fickle and unpredictable opinions and judgments of others.
• High Expectations and Pressure: Expectations will rise exponentially with success. The relentless work schedules to maintain this level of achievement can be overwhelming. You often feel the need to outperform your previous successes leading to physical and mental health issues.
• Fear of Failure: Success intensifies your fear of potentially losing it all. This can be paralyzing creating an environment of persistent worry and self-doubt.
• Loss of Privacy: Public figures often find their personal lives under scrutiny, leading to a sense of vulnerability, intrusiveness, discomfort, and unhappiness.
• Comparison and Imposter Syndrome: As you compare yourself to others, you feel inadequate believing you should have accomplished even more. Or, you feel that you do not deserve your accomplishments and are afraid of being "found out." As a result, you sit in fear never feeling accomplished.
• Shifting Priorities and Values: Compromising your values and neglecting other important aspects of your life, such as family, health, or personal passions leads to a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction.
• Existential Questions: Achieving success can lead to questions about the meaning and purpose of your life. You wonder if your success truly brings meaning or if you are simply chasing after what never or no longer matters.
To break free from the cycle of success and misery, a) take ownership by acknowledging and understanding why you are miserable and its cost b) recognize the importance of pursuing activities and goals that align with your values, passions, and sense of purpose; c) redefine success finding meaning and purpose in your personal and professional endeavors; d) shift your focus toward doing work that aligns with your passions and values; e) mitigate your risks; and f) balance between external success and well-being prioritizing self-care, meaningful relationships, and setting boundaries in your pursuit of success.
“If you are to be successful without being miserable, your expansion must happen by embrace and not conquest.”-Sadhguru
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