Striving for Success and Happiness

Ever feel like you are wanting to strive for more?  Once you achieve what you’ve wanted to achieve, it just doesn’t feel like enough?  You’re not alone in this.

Success and our Worth

Messages in society teach us to “never settle.”  Many times, our self-worth and our happiness depends on how “successful” we are in life.  But how do we know when we are “successful”?  What does that look like for you?  Even if we’ve gained “success,” will we really make us “happy.”

Happiness is an Emotional State 

An important thing to note is that happiness is an emotion – a state, and not a way of life.  Happiness is an emotion just like sadness, anger, fear, or nervousness.  It is almost impossible to stay happy forever, or sad forever, or angry forever.  Emotions last for an average of 90 seconds at a time and then pass. There are certain times where we may feel more of the emotion, depending on the thoughts we have and whether our needs are being met or not.  Often, we push our emotions away because they are uncomfortable.  However, we soon discover that these emotions are not too unbearable and are temporary once we learn to sit through them.

So perhaps when it comes to success or mental health, perhaps we are thriving to feel calm, secure, and confident, rather than be happy (since happiness is a temporary emotion).  Perhaps we want to feel more of this emotion compared to the other emotions, which is completely fair.  Perhaps we are searching for contentment.  What makes us feel safe, secure, and content is dependent on our safety in the environment, and our perspective on life.  How do you define success?  Is your definition of success attainable?  Can you experience happiness (an emotion) while trying to reach your financial or career goal? 

Creating Happiness — Try this out!

We often attach our success to our self-worth.  For example, we are not worthy if we are not successful.  We do not deserve to be happy or feel content with our lives.  What if we were to create happiness?

Try this technique:

I am going to invite you to think of a place that makes you feel really calm, safe, and secure.  Perhaps it is a place you like to visit, or maybe a place in nature.  Picture this place in your head.  What do you see? What is in your environment?  Do you hear any soothing sounds here, or feel any soft textures on your skin when you are in this calm place?  Pretend you are there.  And just notice how your body feels as you think of this place.  Notice any differences?  Perhaps there is less tension in your body.

The interesting thing about emotions is we can activate them through our thoughts.  We can hold power over our emotions – we can manage our emotions.  People and events can activate emotions in us.  However, we can choose to take this “power” back and activate a different emotion by shifting our thoughts.  Try it out!  You can also visit a counsellor to learn more and practice learning about and managing your emotions.

Changing our Beliefs

So when it comes to success and happiness, we can shift our thoughts around what happiness looks like for us, and what success means to us.  Changing these core beliefs or thoughts can help us feel more content.

Try this activity:

Take a pen and paper.  Write down what happiness means to you.  Then write down what success means to you.  Is this attainable?  How does your definition of happiness and success make you feel? Are these definitions serving a purpose in your life right now?  If not, how can we change these definitions so that they are benefiting you and your growth, instead of discouraging you?

Notice any changes.  Remember that change takes time.  Talk to a counsellor about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy if you are wanting to work on your emotions and are noticing that your emotions are holding you back.  The results tend to be permanent and can help you alleviate the “emotional baggage” from the past!