The One Big Lie We're Told About Success
When you've got organizations like Aetna, Etsy, Kickstarter, and Meetup talking about the importance of mindfulness in their cultures and leadership styles, you know that business is radically changing.
As I spent time learning about "Mindfulness in the Digital Age" at the Wisdom 2.0 conference, it became apparent to me that mindfulness is indeed becoming mainstream. While I wouldn't call its pace break-neck, more like clipping along, mindful practices like mediation, compassion, self-awareness, and wellbeing are moving into the business world.
And here's the cool part--while the mindfulness movement is gaining some momentum you can get in now and still be considered an early adopter.
Wisdom 2.0 has a core mission "to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world."
I've been pondering the relationship between success and happiness for quite some time. My two days at the Wisdom 2.0 conference reignited the questions once again: Can you be an ambitious, successful person while also being a mindful, happy person? Can you really have both?
I know the idea that success and happiness are mutually exclusive is a remnant from a bygone era. I also know it just doesn't jive with how many successful people live their lives and run their companies.
So why is it a notion that some people continue clinging to? Why do we keep perpetuating the big lie that success can only be achieved at the expense of a happy life?
First, let's define success.
Most of us define success solely as achievement--when you meet enough goals, acquire enough possessions, or assume enough power then you're successful.
While I agree that achievement is an important part of success, used alone it is a short-sided response to the question, "What is success?" Perhaps success is a bit more complex than that.
Arianna Huffington is using her Third Metric movement to urge us to redefine success "to include well-being, wisdom, wonder, compassion and giving" in order to "chart a course to a new, more humane, more sustainable definition of success."
Not Mutually Exclusive
No longer do business leaders have to choose between leading a compassionate, healthy, and happy life and running a successful company that shares those values.
For the really successful people I know, it's not enough just to meet goals, acquire power, and have beautiful things--although those can be wonderful and used for good purposes.
They also want to create a life where they can enjoy and share those things with others. Successful people also know that how they live their lives is every bit a legacy as what they leave behind.
What would you consider "success" for you? Writing a bestselling book? Raising a grateful and happy child? Leading people to achieve great things and to love their work? Building a world-famous brand? IPO?
Whatever those worthy goals are, might I encourage you to think broader, not bigger?
Rather than just adding more goals to your already accomplished life, think about the longevity of your life and how you want to live it. Are you building a life to enjoy success once you've achieved it?
So, here's the lie: You can't be successful and happy.
And here's the truth as I see it: Success and happiness are intricately connected, require constant negotiating between the two, and ultimately feed one another.
Dr. SHELLEY PREVOST is a mentor and early-stage investor at Lamp Post Group, where she hacks into the psychological and emotional side of starting and running a business. She is a co-founding partner of the JumpFund, an angel fund investing in female-led startups with high-growth potential. Prevost also speaks and consults with companies on finding purpose, humanizing work, and growing leaders from the inside out. She blogs about her work at the Glad Lab.
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