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The success – happiness paradox

When I ask clients what for example success in work will give them they often say happiness. When I ask clients who want to be happier in their life, what would improve their happiness, they often answer, being more successful in my work.

When people think like this they are not going to achieve either success or happiness.

Recently read Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s search for meaning”. I have meant to do this for a long time, having quoted his famous quote so many times when inspiring people to choose their attitude:

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.

I have found this quote very helpful in my own life as have others with whom I have shared it. Reading his book, I have gained another great insight from this quote:

“Don’t aim at success-the more you aim for it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success like happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Success and happiness happen along the way, as a by-product of us doing meaningful work, contributing to a better world and having meaningful relationships. Without feeling we are doing this we are unlikely to feel successful or happy. If you are doing something and all your effort makes no significant difference to anyone then perhaps it is time to choose another role, organisation or relationship.

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