“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”
Good morning friends! I hope your weekend was safe and joyful. I hope your celebration of freedom was full-throated. And I hope you’re ready for another week of smart thinking. If this helps, let’s get to it.
Having just come through the celebration of July 4, thoughts of freedom are ripe in our minds. I know there are many understandings of “freedom”, and circumstance often dictates. To the imprisoned person, a walk outside walls is freedom. To the infirmed person, an unhindered walk is freedom. But to the average American, we who have nearly all our needs met such that we can fantasize about our wants, what is freedom?
For many of us our attention turns to two key words: success and happiness. For many years, reporters on NPR (National Public Radio) have collaboratively read the Declaration of Independence on July 4. It is fascinating to hear every time. And again this year I heard the powerful words: with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A chief desire of every sane mind is the achievement of happiness. But how to get there, that’s the question.
In our capitalism worshipping culture, it is axiomatic that success is the way to happiness. Racking up mountains of debt to get college degrees, stumbling up rungs of ladders leaning against rickety walls hoping for achievement, living in homes so filled with stuff that only basements, attics and storage buildings can contain it all, surely happiness is at the end of that road, right? Well, if the national mood is indicative, not so much.
The author suggests, rightly I think, that we have the equation backwards. The road to success is happiness, not the other way around. And the phrase seems so wild and incredible to us that it surely could not be accurate, but is it? In cultures all over the world people live in peace, harmony and happiness without any senses of competitiveness or envy. Here at home lottery winners, professional athletes and CEOs live lives of misery. Something is desperately wrong.
I’m not suggesting even a whit that we should all seek poverty to find happiness. What the author is suggesting, and I concur, is that success won’t bring it to us, so why not try something different? Why, indeed. Even the suggestion makes me sound… crazy. But I’m in good company! Have a wonderful week!