This episode is a bit different from all the previous ones. It is very personal and vulnerable. In this episode, I am going to break down the whole concept of happiness VS success – I want to find an answer to the question, “Which one is more important and which one should come first”.
I am really excited about this episode and about the whole new chapter of my journey that starts with it, and I am inviting you to join me on this journey!
I don’t even have my notes prepared today you because I was planning to record another episode on the different struggles with goal setting. Last week we covered one related to procrastination, so I was going to continue that path, but then some other topic came up that I just felt like I have to brainstorm around this topic. I have to put my own thoughts in order, and this is what I’m going to do today.
So, bear with me as I just try to really think through this topic together with you.
Success VS happiness
This topic is about success versus happiness and what we should choose and why. The reason it even came up is me and my husband were talking a couple of days ago, and I don’t even remember what we were chatting about, but then I think we started talking about our finances and our tax situation. He did say something like, “So you know last year we made almost $700,000 and that actually puts us in the top 1% of the household earners in the state of Texas and nationwide as well. We are rich. We’re successful people.”
And my first reaction was very defensive – I almost screamed at him, “Rich? I don’t want to be rich! Rich is bad!”
Then I stopped myself and thought, “Why do I even feel that way? Why is there some sort of block inside me regarding money, regarding being rich or even this whole situation?”
I started digging into this and I spent the last couple days really thinking about this topic. I read a few articles, I googled what other people say and what different opinions are out there. I found several main concepts around success and happiness and how they relate, and today I want to come up with a better one.
Which comes first, happiness or success?
Below are the main three concepts around happiness vs success that I found (and I admit that I personally have experienced all of them.)
Here is the first one:
We are told that what we need in our life is success.
It might be an example from our parents. They are successful people and we want to follow their example, or they are not successful and we want to be better than them. And we are told that the path to a great life is becoming successful, and the path to that is to go get an education.
Go get a job, build a successful career, earn a lot of money – so that’s what we do, right?
We go to school.
We study hard.
We get a job.
We work hard.
We work long hours.
We work seven days a week.
We work ourselves to death.
We don’t have any personal life.
We chase that success, that vision, that image of success that we think will create that life for us that we’ve dreamt of.
Sometimes we get there, sometimes we don’t, and when we get there then many of us begin to realize that we don’t feel happy. That it’s not what we wanted.
And there are other people who watch us do that.
And they think, “No I don’t want that. I don’t want that burnout, I don’t want to spend long hours working in the office. I want to spend more time with my family, I want to spend more time doing what I love. I don’t want to chase success, I want to chase happiness. I want to be happy. I choose happiness over success.“
Maybe for some of us, we never even tried to become successful. We just chose a happiness path to begin with. But for others, once we climb that ladder to success, once we realize that it hasn’t brought us to where we want to be, that we’re still unhappy, then we just flip it around and we forget about all that happened before. We begin to chase happiness.
And then there is the third concept.
Some of us, we want to be successful, we want that financial independence, we want to feel good about ourselves. But we feel almost ashamed to say that we want it, especially if we do something that we find meaningful. For those of us who have our own businesses which have values behind those businesses, we feel like if we do it for the money then it loses its meaning.
Almost like you can’t be doing something meaningful and want to be profitable. It almost breaks that whole picture.
It makes us feel that it loses the value, it loses the meaning. “Oh, now she does it only for the money. So there is no meaning behind it. She doesn’t mean what she does, she doesn’t mean what she says. She only wants more money.”
My personal success story
Can you relate to the above?
I feel like I have subconsciously been feeling this way, and I think it’s a very hard block to overcome.
I remember when I grew up I didn’t have much. I grew up, as my husband likes to say, in the Soviet Union in the 80s. We we lived in a small one bedroom apartment, there were 4 of us and I didn’t even know what a banana looked like until I was probably five haha. But I was smart, I had good grades in middle school and high school. I guess I always had something inside myself – an aspiration, an ambition to do more than I saw my classmates could do.
So I studied hard and went to a good school. Then I got a job, a very good job. I remember I was 21 years old when I got my first paycheck – it was $400. I went to the shopping mall and bought my first Columbia jacket and a pair of Sketchers sneakers. At that point I thought that was success! It was the first time ever in my life when I had the money to spend on something that, until that time, was unreachable, and I was very happy.
I was so proud of myself for achieving that success, and I kept working hard and I earned a lot of respect with my colleagues and became very successful at what I do and at my job.
Does success lead to happiness?
At some point I realized that my job wasn’t fulfilling me anymore.
I felt guilty that I worked too much and that I wasn’t spending enough time with my daughter or my family. And there were people who would be very fast to guilt me into that, even my parents would tell me, “You’re basically not a good mother because you work so much.”
Of course that started to grow as an idea that being successful is not so good.
Honestly, I wasn’t feeling happy. I wasn’t really listening to myself, so I turned things around completely. I began to try and listen to what I feel, how I feel, and what I want. I had a lot of very good discoveries and this is when my life really began to change for the better because I began to listen to myself for the first time ever.
I began to think about what I want, why I want it and if I want it for the good reasons. “Is it really what aligned with who I am, or am I just chasing it because somebody told me to do it?”
All these discoveries were definitely great, but at the same time I forgot all the good things that brought me to where I was.
Because, to be honest, many good qualities that I have now (that I do feel are good qualities!), they either developed during my chasing of success, or they just helped me become successful.
For example, staying strong when things get tough, not letting your fears stop you, stepping into the unknown, taking that leap and really being excited about what’s coming. Willing to explore opportunities that are in front of you, trying new things, challenging yourself, pushing the boundaries.
Even me being stubborn helped me – it was a good thing to have because, again, it helped me stay on track and push forward when things were getting not as easy.
How to avoid burnout while chasing success
The truth is – these are all good qualities!
However, they might be not so good if you don’t listen to yourself, if you aren’t connected with what your emotional/mental state is right now.
This is exactly what leads to burnout.
If you work too hard, if you push too hard, if you never stop and take your breath, you will literally work yourself to death. And this is where mindfulness comes in. This is where self-awareness comes in, and this is where you begin to realize – you have these strengths to fight for things that are worth fighting for, but what are those things that are worth fighting for?
Because not everything is worth fighting for.
It’s good to be able to have the strength to say “no” to people when it’s important to say “no” and to protect yourself. But you don’t want to say “no” just for the sake of saying “no”, and sometimes maybe you want to say “yes” because it is aligned with what you want to achieve.
So, on one hand, we have all these great qualities that make us successful and that are really important to have and to develop to create the best life for ourselves.
And on the other hand, it is as important to have the qualities that will help you not lose yourself in all that rush. Qualities that will help you hear what you need at a particular moment. Qualities that will help you stay deeply connected with who you are and what you want – what will make your life better.
And this is why it’s so important to become more self-aware, to practice emotional intelligence and to really learn to process our emotions.
Foundation of happiness and success
Happiness and success are important, but true magic happens when you add meaning and value as the foundation of it all.
Then you begin to really pursue something that’s important, something that is going to make this world a better place, something that you are truly passionate about.
And you are so deeply aligned with what you do. You are constantly in connection with who you are, you always listen to yourself. You don’t let it bring you to burnout, you know when to stop, you know when to take a pause. You know when to recharge and how to recharge. And you also know when it’s time to start pushing again to get the results that you want to get.
You work for those results because you truly value those results, and also because you value the journey itself and what you are learning in this journey and who you are becoming in this journey.
How to achieve both happiness and success
So what I realize now is it’s not a question of whether or not I should choose happiness or success, which one is better and which one comes first.
The answer is – they are both equally important and you should have both. You should want to have both.
Yes, happiness might lead to success, success might lead to happiness, but only when you combine the two you truly create the best possible life – extraordinary life. And not just for yourself, because you’re not doing it selfishly, but for the whole world around you! You have this meaning inside that drives it all, and this is when you are truly able to realize your fullest potential. This is when you feel proud of yourself.
You achieve success because it is your passion and you work hard for it.
But you also work smart, not just hard.
And you don’t feel guilty. There is no shame anymore because you know your meaning, and that meaning is so deep inside you that it drives everything you do. Your success is just a proof that it’s working, and even that financial wealth that you’re building just gives you more resources to continue on the journey!
It just opens more doors for you to keep doing what you’re doing and to keep making even more improvements in the world that you’re already doing.
Breverie is all about success, happiness and meaning
Another realization that I’ve had is that this is what Breverie has always been about.
Many times I have changed the way I talk about Breverie and about what it stands for. I used to say that it helps women to find happiness, or to achieve goals, or to find purpose.
But it has never been only about finding happiness or self-awareness.
It has never been just about setting goals either.
It has always been about setting the right goals.
And it has never been just about chasing purpose, one single purpose, and about turning your whole life into a pursuit for purpose.
It’s all three together.
Breverie is all about helping you create that life where you set the right goals – goals that have this deep, valuable, meaningful foundation. It is about using your strengths to pursue those goals, to achieve those goals, and to become successful. It is also about feeling good about yourself and about staying aligned with who you are, with your emotions, with your feelings.
Breverie is about becoming successful without being burnt out because you constantly monitor how you are feeling, what you are doing. It is about intentionally creating positive, joyful experiences along the journey that happen today.
Because you don’t just work for the result that is going to happen in five or ten years. You create those positive experiences today by working on something that you truly love – and this is how you achieve the best possible results.
And this is when you achieve them both –
Both happiness AND success.