Successful people are not necessarily happy and happy people are not necessarily successful. There are always trade-offs involved in life and depending on our priorities, we may want to become better at being more successful or happier, or lead lives that are more moral or more meaningful. I’m not saying that you cant have it all, or that these things are necessarily opposed to each other, but it pays to be aware that these are four distinct major goals or ways of living a life and one needs to be more mindful of what goals one is aspiring for.
Though the four major goals of life are proposed to be Happiness, Success, Meaning and Morality , we will focus on the first two goals of Happiness and Success only today.
Success, at times is measured by how much you earn, or how wealthy you are. Some of this may be due to luck , some due to bases and some inherited and this sort of success will not interest us much here. The success I am talking about is doing good work in any domain- maybe path-breaking creative work that changes the domain itself. At a smaller scale it could be measured be measured by how effective you are at work or how productive your output is. The point I am trying to make is my definition of success does not necessarily mean being recognized for that success (by the field), but it is necessarily domain specific.
Lets take an example, a child who sings pretty well and may even be composing music at an early age is successful in the domain of music, though she might not be earning anything from it. To take another example Van Gogh who sold only one painting in his entire career was pretty successful as a painter though probably less so as a salesman!
So what fuels success? Some usual suspects are inborn talent, passion for the domain and sheer hard work. Long debates have raged over whether talent is overrated, or deliberate practice and 10,000 hours are unduly glorified, or whether grit , which consists of passion and perseverance for long term goals, has been unnecessarily and per-maturely hyped. Add to the mix concepts like rage to master, which some have mused is just the same as grit, but purportedly more under genetic garb; or growth mindset which in the first place enables people to work hard in face of difficulties, and you have a lot of candidate mechanisms vying for attention.
IMHO, the debate about which ingredients are needed to make a success recipe are now well established what people are squabbling about is what proportion of which ingredient is to be added and is responsible for the final taste.
Taking recourse and inspiration form my ABCD model, I believe the formula for Success looks like:
Success= Talent (A, more innate) + Hard Work/ Deliberate Practice/ 10,000 hrs (B , under intentional control) + Grit/ Rage to Master (D, motivational drive) + Growth Mindset ( C, a way of approaching mastery)
Now, remember that success is domain specific, so in some domains Talent may be the driving factor while in others Hard Work or Grit or having a Growth Mindset may be much more important. In either case, for those who have set their primary goal as that of being successful, my advise would be to invest on all four components and stop worrying as to which is more important or what contributes what amount to the final successful outcome. Get passionate about something, hopefully some area in which you have some talent or ability, put in 10,000 or more hours of hard work and believe that your abilities in the domain can grow with hard work.
After coming up with this simple formula for Success, I could see parallels with Happiness and how to achieve it. To recap , work by Sonja and her colleagues has shown that happiness is partly determined by genetics (set point), partly by circumstances and partly by intentional activities and mindset. Another fact to remember is that character strengths are considered one pillar of being happy in the eudiamonic sense.
Thus, Happiness or Flourishing can be attributed to use of character strengths (which are sort of stable and internal), or to use of positive interventions and positive habits (like writing 3 good things or doing 3 kind acts etc) or it ma y be attributed to the drive to equanimity or remaining self regulated and resilient despite whatever is happening or it may be attributed to an abundance mindset where helping someone or sharing resources does not lead to zero sum outcomes, but leads to positive externalities.
Again, drawing parallel to the Success equation, this formula for Happiness becomes:
Happiness = Character Strengths ( A, more innate) + Good Habits/intentional activities/ positive interventions (B, under control) + Equanimity/ self-regulation/ emotional resilience (d, motivation for stability) + Abundance Mindset (C, way of approaching happiness)
Again, just like Talent in Success may refer to musical talent or sports talent or academic talent , Character strengths in Happiness formula may refer to any of the 24 VIA strengths. To be truly happy, one will need to find what strengths one has and maybe sharpen them using interventions and self regulation directed for development of that strength. However, while a lot of empirical work has been done with respect to the success formula teasing out the relative contributions, similar work needs to happen for Happiness formula too.
And of course, we have to find formulas for Meaning and Morality but that would be an occasion for a future post. Suffice to say that Benefit mindset will figure there.
Does knowing these formulas help you get greater clarity in your pursuit of success/ happiness? Which one would you chose if you had to make a trade-off and why?