Why does ‘success’ leave you with emptiness?

Success. Everybody wants it, working hard day by day in order to achieve it. The constant urge to reach a better grade on a test, a higher paycheck at the end of the month, clicks on your website or YouTube channel. It is predominant. But once we reach it, it is not enough. Sometimes it can even feel like it‘s never enough. Often we find ourselves asking: “Shouldn’t I be happy? I got an A on that test”. Why is that?
Maybe the root to it is our perception of success. Does happiness really equal success? Apparently not, since it doesn’t bring us the joy we crave for. Why is reaching our goals not enough? The explanation could be easier than we thought!

If our achievements don’t bring us joy, the goals might have been meaningless in the first place. Why do you want to become a lawyer? Is it because you want to help people out when they need assistance the most? Is it because you have this inner feeling for what is right and wrong and you want to actively participate in the social perception of it? Or is it because you can earn a lot of money or didn’t know what to study after high-school or even were forced into it by your parents?

Living a meaningful life is what fills us with joy, and happiness is a byproduct of that. If you feel like you are making a change, you won’t have a problem waking up in the morning, because you’ll want go out of bed and get started. “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make” is what Jane Goodall, a British primatologist once said. Find what you are passionate about and try to make a change. Adding value to other people’s lives will eventually add value to your own life. And if people around you stop you from doing so, don’t try to explain yourself. Either they accept that you live a meaningful life or they don’t really care about you. Or in the words of author Joshua Fields Millburne: “You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.”

(This is an adaptation of an article I wrote last year for an assignment in university.)

Thumbnail: Burn out by easy_rhino (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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