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Success vs. Happiness

How do you define success? And how will you know when you have it? Two thought-provoking questions with equally varying answers depending on who you ask. I’ve read quite a few articles lately about why some people are successful and others aren’t. Although differing opinions exist, there seems to be a general consensus on the subject. People who make goals and complete daily, prioritized, actionable tasks to reach those goals tend to be more successful. It’s a basic formula of visualization + action = manifestation. Seems simple enough, and as a self-proclaimed goal-setter I admit this works well for me.

Still, I find myself pondering about success on a deeper level. Is not the definition of success relevant to one’s life circumstances and, even more importantly, to our personal values? For some, success is associated with a certain income. For others, it may be simply doing what they love. These two concepts may not be mutually exclusive, but they are not inherently inclusive either. Plenty of people earn a substantial income yet hate their job or don’t feel fulfilled on a deeper soul level. While others, who don’t earn as much as their peers, experience deep fulfilment and are content with their purpose in the world. Of course, these examples assume the definition of success must be related to a job or career. However, there are a multitude of areas in our life in which to be successful and life is full of challenges to conquer and opportunities to seize.

For me, success is finding and experiencing happiness. My ultimate goal is to be happy in all areas of my life: family, relationships, home, career, health, self-care, and spirituality to name a few, and not necessarily in that order. Life is wonderfully messy, sprinkled with celebrations and hardships. It often seems that just when things are going great the proverbial wrench hits me smack in the face to remind me that I can’t be happy all the time. Then again, my perpetual positive side begs to differ.

I have come to believe that happiness is a choice. Since I am the author of my life story, then I can create my happy endings, even when life throws me curveballs. Instead of creating endings in the traditional sense, I prefer to create segues into new chapters. When something doesn’t go my way, or my efforts are not reciprocated for example, instead of surrendering to the notion that I have no choices, I decide to learn from those experiences and create new possibilities with positive narratives. I rewrite my story!

Indeed, the foreword of my autobiography will include (in big, bold letters) Ralph Waldo Emerson’s well-known quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” You see, I don’t want to miss out on all the wonderful in-between moments, especially the perceived terrible ones that upon reflection will be the catalyst to greater change and opportunities that I could have never imagined otherwise.

I realize that on paper all this may sound cliché and I admit I have gone a bit overboard with platitudes in this blog. I know it’s easier said than done! (See what I did there?) All kidding aside, I get it! It’s not easy to choose to be happy when you are caught in the middle of life’s challenges. I have had countless moments of sitting in what I call “pockets of despair.” Shoot, sometimes I moved in all my stuff and took up residence in those pockets! Trust me, I’m not always flowers and sunshine (and metaphors)!

But when I look back at those periods in my life, some more recent than I care to admit, I realize the value of those experiences. They have shaped me into the person I am today…a happy, successful, passionate, inquisitive, reflective, proud-to-be-type-A, nature-loving, concert-going, mother-of-teen-boys, loyal-to-a-fault, compassionate hippie who sometimes struggles with control issues and self-love.

I cannot change the past, but I can change how I view my past and how I react in the present. You can, too! Ask yourself, what does success mean to me and what makes me happy? Are those answers the same? Does being successful make you happy? Does being happy suggest you are successful? Evaluate the different areas of your life and examine the distance between where you are now and where you would like to be. What would it take to narrow those distances? Be honest with yourself and own your choices. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Remember, our thoughts are powerful motivators and what we put our attention on grows. Do you want to grow weeds or a beautiful, lush garden? Do you want to be happy, successful, or both?

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