Success without fulfillment is failure.
— Anthony Robbins
It was 4:00 p.m., long after I should have turned around. It was snowing and blowing and thundering and lightening. And I was alone.
I had planned it for years and trained for months. I had spent 18 arduous days on the mountain, 5 above 20,000′. Now I had climbed to the highest point in the Western Hemisphere.
Oh, sure, there was a small metal cross and some prayer flags and the various memorabilia that climbers leave behind on big peaks. And there was a (fleeting) sense of accomplishment. But there were no trumpets, no marching bands, no accolades, no “atta boys.” There were no trophies, no certificates, no awards. Just a cold wind… and an empty summit.
That’s the problem with success, of course. It’s often empty. When we finally get “there,” we’re not quite sure why we’ve worked so hard. And the success for which we long still seems to be over the next hilltop.
You see, the model is broken.
We’re taught: go to school, get good grades, work hard, get a good job, put in long hours, get promotions, make lots of money, buy lots of things. THEN you’ll be successful. THEN you’ll be happy. We parent, manage and motivate with this paradigm. And it’s wrong… by 180 degrees.
Psychologist Shawn Achor says that the main problem with this model is that “every time your brain has a success you change the goalposts for what success looks like.” This is prevalent in how we do our work, and it’s prevalent in our personal lives and consumerist lifestyles. There always seems to be this sense that on the other side of something (a new thing, a completed task, someone treating you a certain way) is where happiness lies. “If only I had this, I’d be happy.” “Once I reach this goal, I’ll be happy.” “As soon as she tells me she loves me, I’ll be happy.” And when we’ve achieved the big goal, the target is set still higher.
Success can never be achieved. Happiness can never be attained.
They are always beyond our reach when we live like this.
Happiness constantly pushed beyond the “cognitive horizon;” and thus eternally unavailable.
But there’s good news. It doesn’t have to be this way. Happiness can be taught. And it’s happiness that leads to success. NOT the other way around. Happiness and success are actually found in the valleys; not on some distant high summit.
Achor suggests some very simple practices:
- Feeling Gratitude – Making note of three new things that you are grateful for every day.
- Journaling – Recalling a positive experience that occurred over the last 24 hours, allowing your brain to re-live it.
- Exercise – Getting physical teaches your brain that your behavior matters.
- Meditation – Sitting still trains the brain to get over our “cultural ADHD,” and helps bring focus.
- Random acts of kindness – Emailing one person in your social support network, praising them
- Let go
- Lighten up
- Remember that there is only love
I’m not saying “don’t worry, be happy.” God knows, there’s plenty to worry about. But what I am saying is that happiness is the most fundamental element of our success. And it doesn’t just happen. You can learn to do it.
Don’t wait. Start now.