Can you be successful and be happy? That’s a great question. Can you be unsuccessful and still be happy? That’s an even better question. What does success mean to you? It really means different things to different people. For some, success is owning their own company. For others, success is “living free” off the grid, with no real job. For yet others, it’s being able to retire and travel. For a new generation, not working in a 9-5 job but doing something they enjoy and trying to get paid to do it is success. It’s really a new world, with lots of options and possibilities but it’s more about what is success for you, and how much risk can you handle.
If I were younger, and still in my 20’s, I would probably do what some younger people are doing and buy a motor home and travel the country. In my 20’s I took a risk and moved to the west coast, in Washington State, to make a life for myself. I managed that risk by finding a job and creating a life there that I enjoyed. I developed friendships, bought my first house, and nurtured my career. I have never been a real risk taker, mostly sticking to traditional options for living, but I wish I had taken more risks. The route that I took helped me feel successful, and today, after lots of hard work and patience, I can appreciate the opportunities I had that brought me to today.
When I set out to define success, I started with my income, something I regret today. As I climbed the ladder, my income increased, but that didn’t come with happiness. It came with more responsibility and self-imposed stress and a drive to keep going. I missed out on so many things that could have fostered happiness, like traveling more, spending more time with friends or doing more things outside of work that I enjoyed. I started reading stories about people with six figure jobs quitting to do something they enjoyed, making less money but being more focused on being happy and fulfilled. I envied them, but what I’m coming to understand is that I could have done that, if I had more courage. I must admit, I’m not much of a risk taker, more playing it safe.
So how do you find the courage? I’m not sure. Still working on that, but I’m convinced it comes from understanding the risk, and doing things anyway. As I talk with people in treatment, working to change their lives, I respect the risks they take and the courage they have to think outside the box. As I challenge them, they are able to think of different ways to do things. They work to think about things differently, that opens up a new perspective. They make changes that are amazing, with courage and focus to better their present and their future.
As you think about the changes you want to make, if any, define success. Are you already successful, and happy. Are you happy, but don’t feel successful? Are you successful, but not happy? You can be both, as long as you balance your life with friends, family, ambition, and drive. If you are happy with where you are, be happy. If you are not, keep striving to be happy, for life.