why success doesn’t always bring happiness

Do you believe that in order to be happy, you need to be successful?

After all, the American Dream is, in the most traditional sense, to achieve success. So many of us are taught to believe that once we started earning that coveted high-income level, a happy life will soon follow...but it isn't always that simple.

When the founder of karuna, Arun Sardana, arrived in the U.S. from India, that is certainly what he believed. He pursued a lustrous career in the financial services industry, but once he made all the money he could hope for, he found that something was still missing. So what do we need to be happy if it isn’t the success so many of us have pursued for so long?

In this episode of the open book journey, Arun speaks with Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky about this very question. Dr. Lyubomirsky is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, and author of The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, which have been published in 36 countries. We’ve turned to her to help us answer this question of why successful people aren’t always happy, and the conversation takes many twists and turns as she and Arun take a deep dive into the perception and reality of happiness. You can listen to the podcast right now by clicking the play button below!

Before you dive in, though, a little more on why success isn’t always as fulfilling as we’d hope it to be. Dr. Lyubomirsky tells us that there’s a difference between extrinsic goals - goals to pursue money, fame, beauty, power, versus intrinsic goals - things that give us a deeper sense of fulfillment, like connecting to others, helping others, or growing as a person. According to Dr. Lyubomirsky, research shows us that the pursuit of extrinsic goals is not related to happiness - it’s actually related to unhappiness.

“Pursuing money causes us unhappiness, but having money causes us to be happy.” -Sonja Lyubomirsky

The paradox here is that pursuing money is associated with unhappiness, but having money is associated with happiness, Dr. Lyubomirsky tells us. It is good to have money, for a lot of reasons - it buffers us from negative things, from adversities, it allows us to spend time in the way that we want, it allows us to give money away - but when you’re too preoccupied with materialistic goals, you tend to be less happy than those who are nonmaterialistic.

So the key here is to look at how we define success. Happiness is more about what your goals in life are, what’s driving you. If you’re purely driven by money, power, beauty, fame, then you’re probably less of a happy person than someone who’s not driven by those things, says Dr. Lyubomirsky. So what’s your definition of success?

Leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn - tag us with the handle @accesskaruna. And, don’t forget to give us a follow so you can learn more about the science and ancient wisdom that lies behind happiness. Please also be sure to follow our podcast, the open book journey, so you can join us on our journey of discovery as we have deep conversations with other great minds like Dr. Lyubomirsky. Thank you for reading, and remember...happiness lives here.™ Welcome home.