Chase happiness, not success


Mayukhi Katragadda

A positive outlook on life and focus on happiness can lead to more satisfaction, instead of a success-driven mindset

What is happiness? Since we were young, teachers and adults have been enforcing the idea that studying hard and landing a decent job will eventually lead us towards the feeling of “happiness” or fulfillment as we look back on our achievements. But what defines our feelings of contentment and pleasure? Does success really guarantee happiness?

Especially with the rising presence of social media in our everyday lives, oftentimes society pushes us to compare ourselves to others in order to feel accomplished, relating that feeling as a measurement of how much happiness we experience. For example, reaching higher numbers like having more followers, subscribers or likes are not a measure of the quality of the content creators put out or the amount of happiness their creation brings to them, but it leaves a sense of accomplishment, making them feel somewhat satisfied. So because happiness isn’t something we can truly measure, we tie it to success. And that is the wrong way to go. 

Success varies per person – earning a certain amount of money may deem one person as successful, but to another, success could mean achieving their dreams of a lifetime. As life goes on, our own perception of success changes. When we were younger, we thought being successful could be working a stable job or receiving a steady income, but once we reached that point in our lives years later, would we call ourselves successful?

Regardless of what we believe is success, we will always strive to become more accomplished, whether that means earning higher wages or receiving a promotion in the workplace. This vicious cycle of chasing after success will never be complete, so tying our happiness and our worth to it will always leave us feeling empty and never satisfied with what we have. So rather than pursuing success for satisfaction, pursue your passions for true happiness!

In a 2009 study, researchers conducted an experiment on students to test for life satisfaction based on their daily emotions. They found that happiness predicts “desirable life outcomes” since positive emotions help people develop resources to live well, therefore helping them feel more satisfied in life. Overpowering negative thoughts with positive ones help build resilience and broaden awareness for better problem-solving. Not only does happiness result in positive outcomes, but it precedes and predicts them as well. So leave that idea of chasing success to be happy; instead orient yourself towards happiness and that will lead you to success!

Furthermore, as a student living in an academically competitive area, I can see the detrimental effects of keeping a success-driven mindset. My peers are often stressed with the amount of workload they have, taking multiple high level AP classes and participating in extracurriculars they may or may not actually be passionate about. It’s common to hear students admit that they don’t enjoy some of the classes and activities they take, such as AP Computer Science or AP Biology. They take such courses due to peer pressure or for the promise of earning a significantly higher wage than other professions in the future, even if it’s not in line with their true passions. Sacrificing our mental and physical wellbeing is not worth the supposed success we might get in the end. So why spend our youth and our life as adults working towards something that doesn’t bring us joy, when we can make the choice to pursue our passions?

Happiness isn’t meant to be measured; it’s meant to be felt. If we feel the urge to smile, to laugh, to even cry, because our heart is filled with contentment, isn’t it enough to leave it at that? We don’t need to compare the amount of happiness we feel to anyone else. Just like success, happiness is not something that is constant. We are supposed to feel all sorts of emotions and have our ups and downs. If we were feeling happy all the time, then that feeling would no longer be special. Rather, building a growth mindset to have a positive outlook on life can lead us to feeling sparks of joy more often, and thus leading us to feeling more content with ourselves. So smile a little more, laugh a little more and live life a little more, then success will come to you!