How long is a piece of string? How do you measure success?
Have you noticed what both of those questions have in common?
Both questions share the same fact that their answer is completely subjective. See, no matter how reasonably we can try to go about answering them, both questions have numerous answers which could all either be right or wrong. Let me explain:
For millennia, we’ve most commonly measured success using someone’s fame, fortune, or even by how they look. But, if success is based on how much money people have, why are so many wealthy individuals so depressed that they end up taking their own lives? If success is about how famous someone is, why are so many celebrities filling the gaps in their daily lives with drugs that ultimately lead to their demise?
Shouldn’t all of these people who are just about as “successful” as anyone could possibly get, have better lives than the rest of us? If we use fame and fortune to define success; all of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people should have perfect lives– but, we know they don’t.
While it may seem like something out of the Hippie movement that’s lacking real world practicality, using happiness to measure success is actually pretty effective. After all, happiness is technically what we’re all chasing– isn’t it?
We work to save money so we can buy things that’ll make us feel happy. We work to pay bills so that we have a place to call home which makes us happy that we’re not homeless. We travel to different countries and learn about different cultures so that we grow as individuals which makes us happy.
Name something to do, doesn’t it ultimately lead to a reward you want to obtain? What do you think you’ll feel when you get that reward? You’ll be happy, wont you?
Live, breathe, and die, everything we do is all just in “The Pursuit of Happyness”. Isn’t it?
With all that in mind, I ultimately find no better measure for success than happiness.
Bear in mind that what I mean by happiness is not mere laughter and good vibes. What I mean by happiness is being entirely and fully content. What I mean by happiness is when every inch of your being is seething with an infectious energy that sets you flame like a mini golden sun because you’re just thankful for even being able to breathe.
Measuring happiness so we can measure success
Since happiness is something that technically can’t be quantified, we can’t really put a direct numerical value to it. That being said, you might be thinking “Obviously, happiness can’t be measured so you can’t use it to measure success.”. But, hear me out.
While we can’t “directly” put our happiness on a graph like with money, we can do a simple “weighing of the scales” to essentially create a value for our happiness. Basically, what I mean by that is to evaluate the amount of time in our day/year/life that we spend in a state of true happiness.
For example, If I spend 20 hours of my day being happy then I’ll roughly have spent 85% of my day being happy. We could consider that as a fairly successful day, right? Even in the long run, being happy for 85% of our life seems perfect. What more could one ask for! Well, not so fast.
Expanding on the idea, a person who lives to be 100 years old and spends 85% of their life being truly happy has essentially only been “truly happy” for 85 years. But what then about the other 15 years?
While being happy 85% of the time may seem great when looking at it from just one day’s worth of time, when we blow up the scale to encompass the entirety of one’s life; the game changes completely. In the grand scheme of one’s life, using happiness as the measure for success, an 85% success rate no longer seems tolerable. Instead, it seems like sheer insanity. After all, who wants to waste 15 years of their life being anything but happy?
Looking at it in this way, when we use happiness to measure our successes (and ultimately our lives), it becomes extremely clear when there’s something going on. With this kind of measure, we can easily assess our situations and fix whatever is causing us undue stress before it’s too late.
Watch: “Dalai Lama’s guide to happiness“
Personally, I believe that success should be based on things that are inherently part of life itself; not something that’s been fabricated by society (money, fortune, power). I believe that success should be based on something like our happiness which can never be taken away from us unless we allow it.
Chances are, when you’re laying on that white hospital bed feeling your body weakening, you won’t care about how much money you had or even how famous you were. Chances are, you’ll only be thinking about whether you truly had a happy life and how many people’s lives you impacted positively. What better success is there than having lived a good life?
What do you think is the best way to measure success? Let me know in the comments below.