How To Measure Success That Brings Happiness

measure successWhen I was growing up, I would see others that appeared to be successful to me. They had a big house, nice car(s), some toys (electronics, etc.). I quickly related success to things. To put this another way, I would measure success based on money. In order to be successful, you had to make lots of money so that you could buy things.

When I started looking for a job, I was looking for the one that paid the highest salary so I could buy the most stuff. I ended up getting myself into a decent amount of credit card debt because I kept buying things so I could appear to be successful to others. Their opinion of me was going to make me happy, along with all of the things I was buying.

I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that many Americans have the same mindset as I did. They like me, measure success through things, money and acceptance. Look at shows on television or in magazines and the overriding theme is that success = money. If you have two people who each run a business, who is more successful, the person whose business earns $1 million a year or the person whose business earns $50,000 a year?

If you measure success in terms of money, then you know the answer. But we shouldn’t measure success in this way.

How To Measure Success The Right Way

Success Doesn’t Equal Money

When you define success as making the most money possible, you are setting yourself up for a miserable life. This is because you are always chasing the next dollar. If you only make $100,000 as opposed to making $200,000 you are going to be unhappy. As the year comes closer to an end and you realize you aren’t going to make that $200,000 you begin to feel stressed. You may even start working longer hours to try to still meet your goal. This vicious cycle inevitably repeats itself over and over again.

Redefine Success

What you need to do is redefine success. You need to realize that happiness = success. If you are happy with what you do, then you will be successful. I have a friend who is a teacher. He earns a decent salary, but nothing extraordinary. He went to graduate school and earned his degree to become a principal. Part of the process included an internship where he had to spend a semester with a principal and superintendent and work along side them, learning the ropes. Making the most money is how he would measure success. This is why he was looking to become a principal: much more money than a teacher.

He quickly realized something: that he can’t measure success through money, he should measure success through happiness. He could become a superintendent making over six figures per year. But he would give up his summers off and would have to attend all of the school board meetings in addition to the normal day. It wasn’t worth it to him. He was happy (successful) in his current role as a teacher. He might not be making six figures per year, but he valued his time and what he could do with his free time. He was (and is) happy. He is successful.

Final Thoughts

It may take you some time before you have the same “ah-ha” moment as my friend did and change how you measure success. But I urge you to take the time to realize that success doesn’t equal money. You could have all of the money in the world and still be unsuccessful because you are unhappy. Find those things that make you happy, and success will follow you, wherever you go.

[Photo Credit: Simon Howden /]

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