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Success and Happiness – Can They Exist Together?

Success and Happiness – Can They Exist Together?

A poor man was sleeping peacefully under a banyan tree, when a businessman happens to pass through the field. He was surprised that the man, who had barely covered his body with sullen cloth, could sleep so peacefully in even in daytime.
He awaked the poor man and asked, “Why are you sleeping? Why don’t you work?”
The poor man questioned the businessman, “Why should I work?”
“Well, if you work, you will earn money.” replied the businessman.
“Then, what?” asked the poor man again.
“Then you can invest the money in business and make more money. So you will have lot of money.” advised the businessman.
The poor man repeated his question, “Then?”
“Then you can enjoy your life.” said the businessman.
“But that is what I am doing.” said the poor man.
And he slept again peacefully.

The arguments of the poor man do make sense. Yet, we always believed that success is necessary to achieve happiness in life. All our lives, we struggle to achieve more and more success in the hope that we would attain happiness after being successful. Yet most people realize after achieving success in life that success hardly make them happy. Every success brings with it a greater desire to achieve more success and the process goes on till the end of life.

What is Success?

Success is difficult to define as it is too subjective. Thefreedictionary.com defines success as “the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted”. Since the desire or every person is different, hence “success” means different things to different people. Desires vary not only between different people but also for the same person in different stages of life. As soon as one desire is fulfilled, the next desire emerges and the quest for success continues.

Happiness has been defined by thefreedictionary.com as “the state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. Thus happiness seems to be only temporary phenomenon that comes on those moments, when the desire is fulfilled or the goals are achieved. Yet lasting happiness can never come from the fulfillment of desire as the desires of man can never be fulfilled even if he acquires all the wealth of the world or become the most powerful person of the world.

Thus all happiness is only temporary. Who want such happiness that has to be necessarily followed by pain and misery in life? This is, however, the reality of life. Everything has a price and every one has to pay a price for everything he achieves in life. So the cost of success is paid in the coin of happiness.

The good news is that you can achieve happiness if you are willing to pay with your success. Is there any evidence for such claims?

The Cost of Success

The book, “Peace with God” by Billy Graham, narrates an incidence to demonstrate that success does not mean happiness. The relevant excerpts from the book are as following

In 1923, a group of the world’s most successful financiers gathered at Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. .The Meeting was an impressive array of wealth and power. Seated at the single table were the world’s largest independent steel company, a great wheat speculator, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, a member of the cabinet of the President of United States, the president of the Bank of International Settlement, the man who was known as the biggest trader on Wall Street , and another who headed the world’s most powerful monopoly.

Together these eight men controlled more wealth than the United State treasury.

They fired the imagination and kindled envy. Yet their stories were incomplete then as people then were not knowing their ends. The end stories of these most successful men are as following.

Charles Schwab, president of the steel company, lived the last years of his life on borrowed money and died penniless. Arthur Cutten, greatest of the wheat speculator, dies abroad insolvent. Richard Whitney, president of the New York Exchange, served a term in Singapore Penitentiary. Albert Paul, the cabinet member, was pardoned from prison so that he could die at home. Jesse Livermore, the “bear” of Wall Street, Leon Frazer, president of the Bank of International Settlements and Ivar Keuger, head of world’s largest monopoly, all committed suicide.

What is the lesson that was unknown to these eight men and continues to be unknown to the most successful people of the world? The lesson is plain and simple. It is similar to the old proverb that you can not have the cake and eat it too. You can not have success and happiness simultaneously. You have to lose one to get the other.

The Source of Happiness

The true happiness comes only from the fulfillment of the soul. The satisfaction of body alone is not sufficient to make the person happy as the satisfaction of body is only temporary. Just like no amount of food or water can fulfill the desire of the person for life, same is true with all material happiness. Man starts feeling hungry and thirsty within hours of feeding oneself to the fullest. Thus all the physical and sensual pleasures that are relating to the body satisfy the person only for little time. Lasting happiness can come only by the satisfaction of soul which is non-material. A man gets happiness only when he works for the happiness of the soul which comes only by the service of God. No one can please body and soul at the same time. Jesus made this very clear as he said,

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and Money.” (Mathew 6:24)

Here money represents the source to obtain physical pleasures in this world as everything that pleases the senses and the body can be purchased with money. Thus it was made clear in the Bible and other scriptures that one can not achieve Money which is the material measurement of the worldly satisfaction of the need or success and happiness which is the non-material measurement of the satisfaction of the soul.

Achieving Success and Happiness Together

Thus it is quite evident that it is impossible to please body and soul at the same time. Therefore, people who seek happiness often fail to achieve success and the people who become successful fail to achieve happiness.

However just like body and soul are not independent to each other and they always exist together, so is the case with happiness and success. Body needs soul for life and soul needs body to act. Yet both actions must be harmonized with each other so as to create symphony and beauty in life.

Every person after he achieves success must change his gears and then enjoy the success. Only when the happiness starts subsidizing, then one must target success again.

We can compare this phenomenon like kinetic and potential energy of physics. Once you work on an object and lift it to a height, your work is stored in the object as “potential energy”. Whenever you leave the object, the potential energy gets converted to the “kinetic energy”, which comes at the cost of potential energy. The sum total of the energy is, however, always same which is equal to the work done by you. Only gradually the energy dissipates due to friction etc.

Thus every successful person must after attaining success must stop worshipping money and start worshipping God. What it means in real life is that one can after doing good for the self (selfish act), must spent his wealth for the poor and needy for the world (selfless service). Thus his success gets converted to happiness which comes only when the person serves the world which means serve the God as God is present in every creature of this world. This is what Bill Gates is doing after achieving all the success of this world.

Conclusion: Happiness and Success are Complementary

Happiness and success are therefore not contradictory to each other but complementary to each other. They are as complementary as man and woman, day and night, body and soul. They are different but they exist only with each other. You can never achieve one without other, nor can you achieve both at the same time. This is how the world seems to have been designed. Anyone who tries to achieve happiness without achieving success in this world fails just like no one can serve God if his body is hungry. In the same way, no one achieves happiness if he seeks only the satisfaction of the body and senses. A wise man therefore, balances both in life and achieves both happiness and success in this world alternatively.