For many years we’ve been told that success will make us happy. I think we’re now starting to realize that it might be the other way around and that in fact happiness leads to success.
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I have spent the last few years reversing that formula and quit the corporate world and my old life to rebuild one around what makes me happy. My new life has taken me in a very different direction and taught me many things. Living simply has taught me to be grateful for all the small things we have, to put perspective around our problems. It’s taught me the role of compassion in our happiness and how good it feels to help others.
I’ve gone from five star hotels to cleaning toilets in ashrams. I had a company car and now I take the bus. I used to make donations but now I give my time to local charities. Having nothing, has taught me so much about having everything.
We have a tendency to equate success based on what we have or what we earn. I grew up thinking the more money I had the more successful I was and that more was always better. I spent much of my life chasing the elusive dream, the house, car, corporate titles and earned a lot of money in the process but it was doing this that made me realize material wealth does not make me happy, in fact it can have the opposite effect. I worked all hours to earn more money but it left me with no time to do the things I really enjoyed and to live my life.
I’m not an advocate for quitting our jobs or for not working in the corporate world. I’m an advocate for following our dreams and for some this is their dream, but not everyone. We are all unique and this means we all have our own version of what success looks like, this is something no-one else can decide for us, we know what makes our own heart sing!
People would keep asking me ‘have you got a job yet?’ What they actually mean was, ‘am I earning money yet?’ But I was quite happy doing voluntary work, walking along the beach, meditating in the park and spending time with those I cared about. It’s not that I stopped being ambitious, it’s that my ambitions changed. I’d discovered what really matters in life.
I am not oblivious to the fact that we need money to survive in today’s world, to provide the basics such as food and shelter. I know how much harder life gets when you have no money but I’ve also learned many valuable lessons and a new perspective from these tough times. Despite having no home, no car and no savings my life is much simpler and even in the toughest times I would not swap it with my old life.
So take a moment to consider what success means to you, do you build a life around your passions, making time to do the things you love? Ask yourself what your priorities are, your values and strengths? What would you do if money was no object? These questions often help us think more in terms of meaning and purpose which can help break the cycle of being stuck in somebody else’s version of what success looks like. Success can mean different things to everyone and therefore we can all define our own success. It’s less about how life looks and more about how it feels.
In our modern world we have a habit of equating someone’s success to how much they earn or what they’re worth but I’ve learned that the most important things in life money can not buy. Success is less about what we have and so much more about how we feel. I’ve learned that our life is the journey not the destination and it’s more about how we do it rather than what we do.