Are You Letting This Kill Your Happiness?

All this talk about New Years Resolutions and choosing a word for the year makes me think about success. Specifically, what is it?


I suppose everyone has their own definition, cobbled together from their parents and family upbringing, societal influences, life experiences, and spiritual journey. In today’s world, a measure of success often takes into account how much money or fame a person has.

I quite like blogger and internet marketing guru Chris Garrett’s definition of success:

“Success is about living the life you want to live, waking up happy, and being with the people you want to share that life with.”

When I look at things from that perspective, a sense of peace comes over me.

Yes, that is precisely what I want out of life.

Right now, that is exactly what I have. I make a living doing what I love. In Kim, I have both a beautiful wife and best friend. I get to spend several hours a day with my daughter Lucy who is pretty much the coolest thing ever. I get paid to travel to cool places and speak to interesting people. I have a wonderful home. I work hard, but I have a life. Things are pretty swell.

And yet.

And yet, everywhere I look, there is somebody with a fatter wallet than me. More Twitter followers. A nicer car. Higher speaking fees. More web site traffic. More influence. More fame.

It can drive you bonkers if you let it.

Sometimes, I let it. Do you?

My friend Sean Stephenson once told me, “A life of compare leads to a life of despair.” I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a more profound statement. We’re all searching for happiness. What we often forget is that it’s within our grasp. But achieving it is downright impossible if we’re comparing ourselves to others.

The murder of happiness occurs when we play the compare game.

There’s always going to be someone with a bigger bank account or a smaller butt.

It’s great to have role models. I totally recommend learning from the successes (and mistakes) of others. But ultimately, the only path to true greatness is to be fully you. You’ll never be happy trying to win the success that belongs to somebody else.

Let me leave you with this awesome quote from Thomas Merton:

“We cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great. For our own idea of greatness is illusory, and if we pay too much attention to it we will be lured out of the peace and stability of the being God gave us, and seek to live in a myth we have created for ourselves. It is, therefore, a very great thing to be little, which is to say: to be ourselves. And when we are truly ourselves we lose most of the futile self-consciousness that keeps us constantly comparing ourselves with others in order to see how big we are.”

Be yourself and you’ll be more than big enough. And your happiness will be alive and well.

So how about you? What’s your definition of success?

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  1. Hi Jason:

    Great post…I really enjoyed Chris Garrett’s definition of success and I really don’t know a better way to put it than he did. I sometimes get caught up in the comparison trap…and this never leads to anything positive. I try to stop and correct myself when this happens…but we all have both strong and weak moments. Thanks for this reminder that success and happiness are possible no matter our situation.

    • Tim,
      The comparison trap is so easy to slide into, and the media seems to enjoy helping us do that! I see too many people striving for so many things, only to look back and realize they had what they really wanted all along. We all definitely need reminders in this area…I’m sure you’ll write a blog post before long that will do the same for me :)

  2. I think at some point we all just need to step back and define happiness for ourselves. That person may have 300,000 twitter followers but if they stopped and looked around they may very well define what they want in life as what you’ve already got. I think it works both ways, sometimes you gotta take a step back and extricate yourself from what you’ve gotten yourself into and simplify your life.

    That happened to me. About 2 months ago I stopped and looked at where my career was going to take me. I realized my bosses were all workaholics, working 12 hours at the office and then working another 6 at home. They were all single, or divorced. They didn’t have time for their own interests. Campaigns are all consuming. I found when I was on the trail I had lost that sense of who I was, or what my interests even were.

    Success for me, will be when 1) I am able to support myself through my own measures, be it my blog, or freelance writing, or some other business, and 2) when I get to determine my own hours, have time for family and friends, and am not feeling stressed because of my job.

    I’ve almost fully accomplished #2. I view my blog as my business now, and that means giving it my all. I may very well end up working more hours than at my job in a cube, but I am so much happier now, and that means the world to me.

    • Great, GREAT comment, Kerry. You know I was going to make a point in the post about how the people we look up to are often looking up to us for reasons we find hard to imagine. Thanks for making that point for me!

      Kudos to you for having the openness to observe the people around you and analyze yourself in your last job, and for the strides you’ve taken in such a short amount of time. Lots of people wait till it’s too late before they realize their mistakes. Your last sentence reminds me of the saying, “When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

  3. Being able to pay the plumber when a pipe breaks on Sunday evening.

  4. Good reminder. With my recent issues with constantly searching for a job because all I seem to be able to find are temp jobs, it’s so easy for me to look at people like my brother, who signed up with a temp agency a few years ago, and before he even got home from the interview they had a job for him that developed into a permanent job that lasted several years. When he was laid off from that job, he got another one almost right away that has lasted for a long time. I’m happy for him, but sometimes I wish I could be like that…but I have to remember he isn’t me. Comparing myself to others won’t get me a job, and it doesn’t help me ooze confidence. Discouragement is one thing I would rather not ooze.

    I like Kerry’s comment (and Jason’s response)…so often I compare myself to my brother. I can’t express how much I admire him, and I think he’s the best brother in the world. But then I hear him say the same thing about me. I beg to differ, because I think my brother is much cooler than his brother…but trying to become my brother will not help me to become me. God has different plans for each of us, and it won’t help for me to try to fit into the shoes God made for my brother to wear.

    • Yes, other people’s shoes always fit weird…even if they’re supposed to be the same size.

  5. Cubby says:

    K & J,

    Yes. I agree. Good show ole’ chap.

    It was best said by a friend of mine years ago, “Don’t hate me cause you ain’t me.”

    True true. Be yourself or you will become the cable guy.


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