In my search to learn more about how mood can be quantified and turned into data, I’ve stumbled across some very interesting articles about happiness and success.
I have personally found this incredibly fascinating and had to share what I’ve founds as well as thoughts on it.
What is success?
In paper after paper, it seem that researchers are always looking to society to set the metrics and measurements that will define what success is for us.
Although I certainly believe this to be true to a point, – most of us value having a job, most of us believe that having a partner and creating a family is form of success, etc – I also worry that we are setting up the human race to have a pretty bumpy ride in the future.
One study mentioned, “Being successful means accomplishing those things that are valued by one’s culture, flourishing in terms of the goals set forth by one’s society. Hence, our focal question is whether happy people on average are better able to achieve the values and goals they have been socialized to believe are worthwhile.”
I think for a long period of time, this worked.
It reflected how we had built society and for most part, everyone could at least have the chance to find success; like it was possible to follow a trajectory of university, job, family etc.
The issue is – society hasn’t been able to uphold it’s side of the bargain.
The goals to living what is determined to be a “good/successful life” hasn’t completely changed but the goal posts have.
You are no longer guaranteed a spot at the table.
Getting into university and receiving a degree no longer means that you will find a job, let along a the job the want or dreamed of. That job can no longer follow up with a decent living wage and your wage will no longer afford you a house or a better way of life.
Now, even when we do follow society’s success metrics, we fall short.
So what does this mean for us? What does this mean for happiness?
Well, if we can’t recognise that the odds are stacked against us, we’ll continue to feel as though we are failing simply because we cannot achieve the values and goals that have been socialized into our beliefs.
More and more, we will turn inwards with confusion and frustration. We will wonder if there is something wrong with us.
We will worry that we are not good enough when it is our societal structure that has really and truly failed.
This is why I believe so strongly that we must start to reconfigure the way that we approach success and happiness, moving away from the pressures of what society wants us to do or be and simply looking deeper into our own needs and values to define our own prosperity.
And we need to do this fast. Not only for our own sanity but also because it has a much bigger effect of our lives than we perhaps realise.
“Even before entering the workforce, people with high subjective wellbeing are more likely to graduate from college” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California, “Furthermore, happy individuals appear to secure ‘better’ jobs. Once a happy person obtains a job, he or she is more likely to succeed.”
Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that happy, satisfied workers are more likely to be high performers on the job is that they are less likely to show “job withdrawal”—namely, absenteeism, turnover, job burnout, and retaliatory behaviours. I believe that the same can be applied towards most anything in life that can be measured as either successful or a failure.
Study after study comes to the conclusion that success and happiness has a direct correlation.
If this is true, then if we can manage to define and believe the metrics of our success than we really can be the masters of our own happiness.
The desire to be happy is prevalent in Western culture and a happy life is very much the preferred life. We’ve all been taught that things should matter to us. Money, good benefits, a nice car, a big house, a fancy job title.
But what is it that you want when you really dig deep and pick apart your values?
As I said, the goal post have changed. A entire generation of young adults no longer feels any shame in not owning their own property simply because it has become harder and harder to do so. An entire generation no longer feels such a heavy failure because they cannot find a job after university simply because it doesn’t reflect on the person they are or the skills they have – it’s a reflection of the issues that have been created by our society.
I’m afraid that we do not start to grab back our own power from the wider world about what makes us accomplished human beings, that we are creeping closer and closer to a mental health crisis. A lack of purpose. A entire population feeling undervalued and disengaged.
I’m afraid because our governments have not yet been able to catch up to a quickly changing world. As we move further and further into what I believe is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the goal posts of achieving the success that society has defined for us will continue to move. Jobs will be harder to find. We will no longer feel needed.
Our economy is shifting, old technologies and processes must make way for the new.
However, this time our old technology is us, human beings. The UK and other countries have yet to come up with a solution that will address the need of re-training employees into sectors where jobs are available.
Combine this with an ageing population that will continue to demand the use of our health services while also trying to maintain employment with a rising retirement age and it is clear that competition will only increase for the small number of low-skilled jobs available.
We have to recognize that jobs aren’t purely income.
They are part of identity. They structure people’s lives. They give them a purpose and a social community and a sense of relevance in the world
This is a lot of the frustration that we see in manufacturing-intensive areas. It is costly even beyond the direct financial costs and why addressing the increasing crisis within our mental health and wellbeing is so crucial.
So, are happy people successful people?
Yes. I believe they are. But I also believe that the more control we command over the definition of success will always define our happiness.