There have been a lot of discussions, studies, and surveys about whether children should be moulded to achieve success at all costs or should they be conditioned to value happiness most, even more than their careers and other related achievements, or lack of them.
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The broader belief is that there are people who want to be happy, and there are others who want to be successful. In between, there is a big dispute between the two schools of thought riding on the argument that success and happiness are relative and corresponding to each other.
Success is more important than happiness: Success is the first and foremost goal of life and one should always be focussed on achieving this goal even if it means sacrificing all your hobbies, interests etc. Once you are successful you can take up hobbies and your areas of interest as then you will be much ahead in your career and with a strong social presence with name, fame, and money.
Right from the childhood parents should make sure that their child is always concentrating on studies and studies alone, and not deviating to other unimportant things like sports, television, hobbies, hanging out with friends etc. It is during childhood that students should inculcate the strict regimen which will help later, most preferably in higher classes starting from class 9 up till class 12.
As students of class 9 onwards will be clear of their objective they will work hard to achieve it without thinking about any other thing. Happiness is a temporary emotion but success is something which will sustain and support you all the way through.
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Happiness is more important than success: There is no doubt that success is a very important part of life, but happiness is a priceless emotion. In fact, it is believed that people who are happy achieve much more than those who keep a serious, sober demeanour. So, it is very much applicable that happiness quotient plays a fundamental role in achieving success of any kind and at any stage.
Children should be encouraged by their parents and teachers to enjoy their lives while they study. They should participate in sports and extracurricular activities, enjoy with their friends and family. These activities will greatly help in developing their personalities and make them better and accomplished human beings.
People who achieve success, if are not happy then they are missing on the joys of life and the very joy of achieving success if they can’t feel good or joyful about it. There will be emptiness, a vacuum in their lives if they can’t relish their accomplishments.
What you want to achieve in life can be achieved without giving up on the very basic feelings that Almighty has blessed us with then why should one act like a machine that neither takes delight in doing things nor celebrates even the small successes of life?
Success and happiness are directly related but running only after material entities is not a way to live because life is meant to be lived fully.
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When I graduated, the most important question in my mind was how much the salary would be – a thought in common with most of my friends. By the time we all had jobs, we would tactlessly compete with each other over who brought home the biggest pay cheque. It took a few years, but eventually the question stopped being, "how much do we earn", but rather "do we enjoy doing our jobs?"
The result of asking ourselves that question affected each of us in different ways: I started up a company called Setsights while another of my friends left his web developer position to work for a friend at minimum wage. Another quit a job he'd held for more than five years, complaining that at some point the success he was achieving hadn't been worth it.
He was soon going to hit 31, and although he had a nice flat and a reasonably nice car, he hadn't been in a relationship for years and barely had the time to see his friends.
My clients were also asking questions about the balance between career success and life success at a younger age. One large group of clients – students from the University of London – are choosing to take their time and find the perfect first job. This surprised me – I'd expected that in a recession students would be chasing after whatever job they could get, and worry about whether the job was right for them later.
I further wondered if my perspective was skewed; of course my clients wanted to wait for the perfect job, since Setsights exists to help people get their perfect job, not create people who feel like wage-monkeys.
The situation was fascinating, so I set out to interview other people's thoughts on the matter. I interviewed 37 people (friends, former colleagues and business contacts) using qualitative research techniques, and the results were unexpected.
I had expected participants under 30 to say they equated career success with money, and that career success and life success were interchangeable, as this is the message I usually get from friends of my age. At the other end of the scale I thought those over 30 would equate life success with happiness, and that career success was less relevant, as my older friends (or the younger ones with children) tended to say just that to me.
Of the 15 questions I asked participants – including tough ones such as "what do you believe your parents' values to be?" and "how do you cope with career stress" – the two that proved to be most interesting were, "are you happy in your career?" and "what do you think success is?"
Without a single exception, the individuals who answered yes to the first question were driven by similar sets of criteria, which could be summed up into a few statements; they wanted enough, but not too much, money; they wanted to be respected but also to be happy, and they wanted to be in a position where they woke up in the morning looking forward to the day ahead.
The ones who said they were not happy in their careers were seeking more power, influence and money than their peers. This suggests that my aims – and those of my peers – when I left university had been skewed. I shouldn't have been focusing on the salary or just getting a wage in, I should have taken the time to find the right job. If you're career hunting at the moment, take a quick check: have you thought about what job will actually satisfy you?
Trying to obtain power, influence and more money than others implies a certain degree of competitiveness, and as one participant said "success has nothing to do with happiness – it's about winning. I know plenty of successful people who are unhappy".
There is plenty of evidence (see a recent Psyblog 'Reaching Life Goals: Which Strategies Work') to show that competing with others makes it harder to achieve goals, and it makes sense that failing to achieve goals makes us less satisfied with life. The problem is that the way success and happiness are sometimes defined implies that they are exclusive, when in practice by realising that we can define success in our own terms allows them to realign.
The issue, as one of the older participants said, is that "career and life are inextricably linked. You cannot isolate one from the other. It's more important to think about what lifestyle you want and select your career than the other way round". It's wise advice that I wholeheartedly agree with.
At the end of the interviews I asked each participant to give some advice, and would like to share some of this below:
- "Identify what will make you happy in five years, not now, and work to that plan, otherwise the goalposts will move in the meantime."
- "Stop thinking about a career and start thinking about life. It's not important what other people think of what they do for a living or how much they earn, what matters is their own opinion of themselves. Stop looking for job titles and start looking for fulfilment."
My own personal advice is to do the following: take a piece of paper and draw a Star of David (an upside down triangle over a triangle). In the middle put what you're good at, and in the 6 'prongs' list the following: a list of places you'd like to work; the salary you'd like to earn; the people you'd like to work with; what you enjoy doing (or your hobbies); the three most important things in your working life; the culture/atmosphere you'd like to work in.
Every time you apply for a job or search a job site, pull out the piece of paper and ask yourself one question: "Does this job match this piece of paper strongly enough?" If it doesn't and it won't help you get into a position where it will, then don't waste your time. Hold out for the right job.
David Lurie is managing director of Setsights, a career coaching, skills training and graduate development consultancy