Does being a happier person really positively influence business success? Despite the evidence many entrepreneurs still think this is pie in the sky thinking. Instead, we’ve been taught to believe that “hard work” — which implicitly suggests long, stressful hours and personal strain — is the path to success. In fact, people often parade the evidence of their stresses and overwork like professional badges of honor. I know because I’ve been there. Stress was once my middle name and I thought it made me seem important, valued, indispensable.
Of course dedication and diligence are essential to producing results and subsequently success. But do the side effects of “hard work” have to be so exacting? And does the achievement of business results at the expense of personal fulfillment actually equate to success?
Perhaps it would be helpful to first establish a better definition of success. Here are some typical responses when I put a poll on Facebook:
“Success is being what you love”
“Success is happiness”
“Success is realizing the purpose that you’ve been put here for and actualizing it”
“Success is contribution, fun, purpose and meaning”
“Success is loving and being loved, inspiring others, being happy and making others happy. Making a positive difference to yours and other people’s lives.”
Why is it then that while we consciously define success in terms like those above, we still persist in blindly pursuing a definition of success that demands such enormous personal sacrifice in an insatiable pursuit of more money, recognition and acclaim?
The problem lies in the concept of possession. It is deeply ingrained in our culture that things — material possessions, titles, goals — define who we are and our value within society. We associate success to wealth or status but don’t widely discuss the fact that once we achieve these things, our level of happiness does not necessarily rise.
In fact, increased wealth, acclaim and responsibility routinely have the opposite effect. We lose invaluable sleep, weaken relationships, shortchange our families, snub friends, and forgo outside pursuits all for our careers or businesses. Meanwhile, the accomplishments and trappings of “success” don’t bring an increased sense of fulfillment. Once we hit seven figures, we want eight. We get eight and we want ten. And at the end of that road, we realize we aren’t any happier.