Success in our culture is associated with MORE.
- More money, fancier car, fancier house, more things to put in the fancier house.
- More sales, more critical acclaim, more award nominations, more award wins, more clout.
- More bonuses, more stock, more seniority, more autonomy, larger teams, more prestige, more press.
- Better, prettier, sexier, thinner, busier, richer, smarter, better read, better informed, more talented, more hard-working, more visionary, more original, more popular.
I’ve known some pretty successful people, and even right after a big achievement, it is not uncommon for them to still worry, to still feel insecure, to still want more.
Won one award? Well, why haven’t I won more?
Made a million bucks? Well, I won’t truly be safe until I have [plug in larger number here.]
Got a promotion? Well, when am I going to be another level up?
And to a certain extent, I admire the striving. It is exhilarating to be pushing ourselves, to be ambitious, to be trying to improve, to do wonderful things.
But at some point I wonder, when is it enough?
Which is followed soon thereafter by its cousin, will it ever be enough?
And I think as long as we are measuring success by external factors, it may never be enough. Not unless the internal factors have been addressed as well.
When we internalize rejection, when we take failure as a reflection on our intrinsic value as a person, when we struggle with unacknowledged shame, when we replay messages that tell us we are somehow bad or wrong for things outside of our control, when we relive past traumas through the present day, when we measure success only from the outside and not from the inside…
no success will ever be enough.
Happiness doesn’t come from the outside in. But this is hard to believe. If you just get that job or make a certain amount of money or find the perfect partner or have the right number of well-behaved children, happiness will surely follow. Won’t it?
And it is true, all of those things can contribute substantially to happiness. (And if you don’t have certain basic things, of course, all bets are off.) But if you are not prepared for happiness on the inside, none of them will be enough. Because nothing is perfect. Nothing remains unchanged. Important things–families, relationships, friendships, careers–take a lot of work. And there will be parts that are unpleasant. And there will be setbacks. And there will be losses.
So then, lasting happiness comes not only from external factors but from a wellspring deep inside.
And in order to find this, we might need to re-examine our definitions of success. We might need to let go of having MORE and instead focus on what we have and where we are right now.
We might need to consider that we are already enough, and that we always were.