Thoughts on Success and Happiness

teresa barker paris

The other morning I started my day like every other – by opening up Twitter. I usually go on there to wake my eyes up a little bit and keep me from falling back asleep. But this particular morning, I came across a tweet that said the following:

“I wanna be successful so badly that it stresses me out.”

And let me tell you, I FELT that. I think so many of us feel that. I feel like part of my daily routine since high school is talking with my friends about how stressed/tired/over-it we all are. But yet, we keep going.

The Success Epidemic

I really think this drive to be successful is taking over in a negative way. It’s almost as if the need to be successful is more important than our happiness, because we feel we won’t be happy until we are successful.

Success is different for everyone, too. Maybe it’s financial stability. Maybe it’s getting a 4.0 in your classes. Or more likely, it’s a combination of a bunch of things.

“once i finish school with a good gpa and i’m financially stable…” or “once i stop doubting myself and i’m totally self-confident…”

These are things I’ve thought to myself. I’m someone who sets the bar high. Like, really high. And I tend to think that the end goal (success) is more important than the process (happiness).

Happiness is another idea that varies from person to person. Maybe happiness to you is spending time with your friends, playing a sport, or cooking. Maybe it’s reading, hanging out with your significant other, and traveling. But, again, it’s likely a bunch of little things that bring you joy in life.

The Stress of Success

Too often I don’t do these things that bring me happiness because I’m too stressed about being successful. It’s almost like I feel this intense pressure to always be productive, and to always be inching my way closer and closer to success. And then if I spend any time doing things solely to make me happy – like hanging with friends, going on little trips, playing soccer – I feel like I’m wasting time.

I don’t mean that doing those activities inherently is a waste of time. I’m not saying that at all.

What I am saying is that because I feel so much pressure from myself to be successful, that pressure then makes me feel guilty if I’m not doing something like writing for my blog, editing a video, doing homework for college, etc.

It’s Okay to Have Big Goals

The thing is, there isn’t anything inherently “wrong with having big goals and wanting to be successful in any capacity. The problem is when obtaining success is the only thing that matters, and you’ll sacrifice anything to get it – including your happiness.

I feel like in this day and age of technology and social media, we are so connected. All the time we’re seeing people just like us doing great things. It makes us feel like maybe we could do that, too. Success is in our reach.

But too often, human nature kicks in. We start comparing ourselves. How come they’re getting better grades than I am? Traveling places that I wish I could go to? Making more money than I am? 

When we start comparing ourselves, it only adds to the pressure of being successful because it adds time into the equation. We see someone else with what we want, and because they already have it, it feels like we’re behind them and we have to hurry to catch up. Which is just not the case! Our minds play tricks on us sometimes, but if we’re mindful of that, then we can block those thoughts out.

Go At YOUR Own Pace

When it comes to success and happiness, there is no race, no competition, and no need for comparison. We are all going through life at our own pace. I keep myself grounded with this by reminding myself that everything has happened for a reason, and those reasons are why I am where I am today.

It IS possible to be both working on our big goals and enjoying our lives. It’s all about balance, and not being too hard on ourselves. Maybe expanding our definition of productive can help. Instead of only thinking about work, school, working out, etc. as “productive” tasks, why can’t we also include socializing, relaxing, and hobbies as “productive” tasks, too? These things are just as important as the other elements of our lives.

My takeaway here today is that success and happiness can coexist. While we can certainly feel pressured sometimes to be successful, we can also be mindful about reminding ourselves to stop comparing and that it’s okay to go at our own pace.

Keep your goals high, make time for the things you love, and be patient with yourself.

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