Why the Pursuit of Happiness is stopping you from achieving success.

I sit with a student in the careers office, I ask them “What do you want to do with your life?” in response I receive the non-committal slur; “I don’t really know, I just want to be happy.”
I’ve really grown to detest this sentiment. Granted, an adolescent kid will be unlikely to have a good grasp of what they want to do, and that’s okay, that’s not where I see the problem. The problem I have is that happiness (and it’s pursuit) often stops us from reaching our full potential.

This is a discussion about growth. Growth means change. We have to change things to reach our goals. Is it always going to be happiness, sunshine & rainbows on the road to your goals? Probably not. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Definitely not.

20160112_111131For the sake of growth we are probably going to have to make some sacrifices at some points if we want improve our lives and reach our goals. Do you think you will be in a place to make the sacrifices that are needed if you are “happy” with the way things currently are? If you’re being honest with yourself, it’s probably unlikely.

We, as imperfect people, will not be likely to change our situation (be that work, relationships, friendships, improvement in sport) if we feel satisfied with where we are currently at. It’s pretty simple psychology. Have you ever found yourself applying for other jobs if you feel like your current one is fulfilling? Have you ever thought about breaking up with someone if your relationship is satisfying? Have you ever changed an aspect of your strategy or approach in sport if what you’re currently doing is already effective? No, you probably haven’t. We only begin to make changes when we are uncomfortable, unhappy or dissatisfied with where we are currently at.

I discussed previously in How to find ‘The Balance’ how stress can be a good thing. I stand by this in this situation too. The person experiencing dissatisfaction or even discomfort in their current career or life choices, when motivated, can make some big changes to pursue a better job or create better opportunities for themselves. They also develop greater resilience by working through the problems they face instead of shying away from them. The person who is “happy” with what is seemingly an ‘okay’ life will not feel motivated to pursue anything better. By being content with what we have, we actually restricted our potential and inhibit growth from occurring.

All of this isn’t to say that you need to be in a constant state of misery or depression on the way to achieving your lofty goals. It’s to the contrary. Make sure your discipline to reach your goals is not attached to your passion for the thing. Our passions can drive us to disappointment, depression even. Our discipline drives us to work hard, in the face of successes and failures on the way to our ultimate goals or eventual successes.

By developing discipline, not only will you build healthy work/ life habits, but those times of trials and challenge will have less gravity and throw our your emotional balance less. You’ve seen disciplined people before, at your job, around friends or at your gym. They have a laser like focus on achieving their goals. They carry themselves with a confidence, with a gravitas. They seem unaffected by the roadblocks in their path because they have developed discipline that will drive them far further than passion ever will. They are resilient, happy, balanced.

Remember this if nothing else; passion fades. As human beings, we are not programmed to stay in an emotional stasis of “just being happy” all the time. Just because you love something now, doesn’t mean you will even five minutes from now, never mind the rest of your life.

When that something you love loses it’s appeal, discipline will carry you through the tough times and bring you out on the other side closer to your goals and closer to success. Develop discipline and happiness, success and balance will follow.



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