Success: When More Is Not Better

Much of the developed world is preoccupied with ‘success’ and getting more. But often, more is not better.

Getting a pay rise, or promoted, or a better house or car. And then there’s shopping; things galore, the more the better. Hardly a day goes by without receiving an email of unmissable special offers, fantastic new clothes or the latest gadget. Phew, it’s tiring even thinking about it.

So, let’s take a quick peek at ‘success’ and happiness to see what really makes people happy and from that see if there’s a better definition of ‘success’.

Humans are ambitious by nature but just as coffee is nice and too much (caffeinated) coffee can be dangerous we can observe similar effects with ambition. Working for those things in life that make a difference like education, a home, even a healthy diet has plenty of benefits. Pushing the boundaries causes problems. There’s pain in blagging a job you can’t do or borrowing too much for a house you can’t really afford. Being smarter is better so living near a job, saving over debt and doing your job in the working day are all good. This reduces total stress and creates more time in the day.

You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.

Eric Hoffer, Philosopher


The concept of success has been hijacked by commercial interests from an original meaning of “achieving what you set out to achieve” to something along the lines of “changing what you aspire to, so you can be like [insert your choice of celeb /the boss/the world’s richest person, etc.]” and in the process work more to make more money to buy more stuff.

Here are some (hopefully helpful) suggestions:-

  • View contentment and ambition side by side instead of as opposites
  • Enjoy what you have now, your job, clothes, home and simultaneously aspire to changes
  • Gratitude for what we have is essential to happiness and isn’t inconsistent with aspiration
  • View time as your precious asset instead of money
  • Price things in hours worked and see if they are worth the effort
  • Do more of what makes you happy and avoid people and activities that make you feel bad – buy yourself a small box of amazing chocolates
  • Avoid the news – once a day is fine to keep in touch
  • Stop worrying: 99% of the bad things never happen. Instead, focus on the current moment and know you are fine right now.

Sometimes more is not better. For example, imagining a holiday bookended by nightmarish airport experiences, it’s easy to see how a break in your own country could be much better overall.

Perhaps then a more holistic definition of success which included contentment, peace, security and the absence of striving would make us happier?

You may enjoy Seven Ways to Be Happy Right Now

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Writer & Coffee Drinker. Authenticity is the new zeitgeist.