Can you be successful and happy at the same time? The answer depends on what you understand from the word success.
My definition of success is expecting high performance from myself and others, and getting extraordinary results in life.
If you sign up to that definition, you’ll likely not be happy and successful at the same time.
Happiness: Stay in Your Comfort Zone
If you want high performance from yourself or from someone else, you need to expect it. You need to ask for it.
Imagine your default performance is 50% of your potential. That’s optimistic for most people but let’s stick with that figure.
If you expect 50% from yourself, you’ll be happy, because it’s something that you can easily reach on an average day.
High Performance: Aim Higher
If you expect 80% from yourself, you’ll likely fall short of it, because that’s higher than your default performance. But if you aim for 80%, you’ll likely end up somewhere higher than your default, for example at 60%.
Disappointed but Succeeded
In the first scenario, you expected 50% from yourself, and you reached 50%. You fulfilled your expectations, and you were happy.
In the second scenario, you expected 80% from yourself, and you reached 60%. You failed your expectations, and you are disappointed. But if you look at your results, you were more successful in the second scenario.
Is It Worth It?
You might ask “is it worth it to be unhappy for a 10% improvement?” That’s a good question that you have to ask yourself, but remember that even 1% improvements make a huge difference in the long-term.
The Pitfalls and How to Deal with Them
There’s a pitfall in both scenarios. If you choose the first scenario all the time, you’ll stay in your comfort zone all the time.
Eventually, you’ll face challenges, and you’ll have to deal with them. As a result, you’ll likely be unhappy.
Dealing with Disappointments and Failures
In the second scenario, you might eventually lose your motivation as a result of failing your goals over and over. You need the right mindset and emotional intelligence to deal with that.
The Stockdale Paradox is the appropriate mindset to stay motivated to go through the hard times that success requires.
The Stockdale Paradox involves believing in eventual success but at the same time, acknowledging and facing the brutal reality of your situation.
If you want to succeed in the long term, you need to aim higher, and you will probably fail. Even though you’ll perform better than your default, you’ll be disappointed. Therefore, you need to make a choice. Success? Or happiness?
Before you make that decision beware that by settling in your comfort zone, you’re becoming vulnerable to eventual challenges.
If you choose success, you need to develop the right mindset and emotional intelligence to deal with the disappointments on your way to success.
Happiness is an illusion. It’s a temporary state anyway. Let go of chasing it, set high goals, and work toward them. Even if you fail your goals, you’ll reach better results, and you’ll be more successful.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.