Success does NOT equal Happiness
This morning I read the news article about Adam Peaty, world record holder and Olympic gold medalist for the 100m breaststroke, who has dominated his event for the last decade.
The heading: “Adam Peaty: Three-time Olympic champion says winning gold medals will not solve problems”. (Link to article HERE).
This is the epitome of “Gold Medal Syndrome”.
It made me sad on two levels. First for Adam, that he should have worked so hard for so long and been so successful, and yet he has his demons - just like all of us - that plague his thoughts and caused him to struggle with drinking and depression.
Second, I am sad for the incessant obsession, even addition, there is to success. We are bombarded by media in the form of advertising, reality TV, talent shows, sports competitions, rich lists etc; all implying that if we look and perform perfectly we too can be rich and famous and, therefore, happy.
What a pile of crap!
I contend that the relentless chasing of success, as a means to happiness, has a detrimental effect to our wellbeing - mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally and socially.
Happiness is not a goal to pursue, rather a side effect, an outcome, a byproduct of a life well lived. A life driven by your values; not your bank balance or number of followers on social media.
I don’t even like the word happiness! My preferred word is contentment.
I am a big consumer of podcasts. Every day I listen to something from my preferred list of shows - How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, The High Performance Podcast, Diary of a CEO, Rethinking with Adam Grant, The Next Gen Cast, and some professionally specific shows on Optometry and Coaching.
Happiness is not a goal to pursue, rather a side effect, an outcome, a byproduct of a life well lived.
One I listened to recently really got me thinking. It was a brief one from The High Performance Podcast promoting a live event with the All Blacks superstar rugby icon Dan Carter. Initially I was impressed with his commitment to his sport, but as the podcast progressed my thinking shifted to questioning his obsessive dedication to his sport. It created a dilemma for me. On the one hand his obsession is what made him one of the best ever, but on the other hand, listening to him describe how this has followed through to his post playing life, I got a real sense of unease. There seemed to be no space for anything other than what was planned every minute. No down time, no spontaneity, no fun!
People like Dan Carter or Adam Peaty have got to the top. They are inspiring on a number of levels, however, they are not representative of me or you (unless Dan or Adam ever happen to read this 🤔).
By default, for every champion, celebrity and billionaire the are millions of us below, looking up, supporting them, enabling them, and being sold a message that we should all want to be them. I for one don’t.
At 58 I can honestly say I have found contentment, and it’s a delightful place to be. That does not mean that my life is without its challenges and stresses. Perspective is essential. I practice gratitude everyday for the life I have. I engage in personal development to be a better person. I work to make a contribution to those I interact with socially and professionally. I practice kindness. I fail frequently. I am far from perfect. I have my faults and weakness. When I screw up I seek to make amends. I feel guilty for tough boundaries I set. I can be judgemental and critical.
So, a word of caution for us all. Chasing success will not bring happiness.
Get clear on your values and live a life consistent with them.
Ask yourself questions like: Who do I want to be? What is my chosen self? Am I living a life consistent with my values? What am I known for? How would one of my colleagues describe me? Do I like who I am and how I behave?
Answer honestly. Hopefully you’ll like the answers, if not, like me, there is still work to be done.
If this resonates with you and you’d like to chat about your own journey please do reach out to me. I’d love to hear your story.
Contentment vibes to all. Peter.