What is a greater priority in your life: happiness or success?

While it is possible to attain both, we often sacrifice one for the other when making major life decisions such as what career to pursue, whether to move to the suburbs or to the country, to afford a bigger house, or work part-time and be a stay at home Mom/ Dad, even if it means getting less work done.

People appear to be working more than ever now that we are all armed with cellphones and can be reached at all hours of the day.  When we are receiving business calls beyond our work hours the line between work and personal life can become blurred.  Some of us are becoming overloaded and reassessing our lives in search of more quality time for ourselves and with our families.

   Does Increased Income Improve Happiness?

Research that examines the correlation between income and happiness has found that increased income has a very small correlation with happiness for most people.  The exception is  people who live in poverty conditions where more money provide basic necessities like food, shelter, and transportation.  Once people reach the middle class stage however, additional income tends to have little effect on one’s happiness.

While winning the lottery may provide an immediate boost in happiness, studies suggest that  lottery winners return to a level close to their baseline happiness in about one year.  One can find that too much money comes with additional stressors while others have been broke within 6 months of winning the lottery as well.  We’ve all heard stories of the miserable millionaire or the unhappy but successful professional.  This finding suggests that it can be a big mistake to pursue a career primarily to gain a higher salary over a career that you intrinsically enjoy.  It appears that the level of job satisfaction often out weighs the higher salary.

The science of happiness, which is known as positive psychology, basically studies human behavior and positive emotions with the aim of determining what factors can result in an increased level of happiness. Conclusions from this research can provide interesting insights into how we can maximize our happiness.

Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the name “flow” for the idea of engaging so deeply in an activity that you lose track of time.   The Happiness Hypothesis describes flow as the “state of total immersion in a task that is challenging yet closely matched to one’s abilities.   It is what some people  refer to “as being in the zone’”.  Finding activities which lead to a state of flow for you, such as playing a sport or writing a blog/book, and allocating more time to these activities can lead to a more enjoyable career and life.

As one gets older, people tend to evaluate the time they spend at work versus the time they would like to use to enjoy life, perhaps opting to travel or seeing the grandchildren more often.  The passage of time influences our decisions and what may make us happy today may not be as important later in life.

In, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, In 1960, Jung was interviewed by journalist Gordon Young, who asked, “What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind?” Jung answered:

“1. Good physical and mental health.

2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.

3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.

4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.

5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.”

The more consciously aware I am of my happiness, the happier I will become. These five factors Jung outlined above can strengthen those elements of my life, I make myself happier.   Jung also noted that there is no guarantee in maintaining happiness, I think it is always worth my best shot!

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” –Carl Jung

Happiness research may not provide the secret to achieving happiness but it can suggest ways in which we can potentially increase it.  The conclusions are often based on the “average person” so these ideas may not work for everyone.   However understanding the findings from happiness research and experimenting in your own life can help you determine what will ultimately lead to “the good life” for you.

I’m most happy when I’m doing something creative, such as writing, singing or even dancing – I don’t have any worries, I forget the planet.



2 thoughts on “What is a greater priority in your life: happiness or success?

  1. Lovely truth……………..those last two lines. Everything. Thank you beautiful lady.

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