How successful are you? More importantly, how successful do you feel?

If you're like most people, you don't feel particularly successful -- not because you haven't achieved the things you hope to achieve, but because you have things you still want to achieve. (In some ways that's a good thing, because complacency is the enemy of effort.)

But what about financial success? How successful do you feel in terms of your possessions and lifestyle?

Discover surveyed 1,000 Americans about their finances, and the "upgrades" they feel they need to consider themselves successful: Homes, cars, vacations, etc. 

What did they learn? To feel successful:

  • Respondents want to own a house worth more than double the amount of their current home. (On average, participants said their current homes were worth a little over $200,000; their "dream home" cost $408,000.) 
  • Respondents want to own a car worth twice their current car's value to feel successful. That means owning a Mustang is fine, but what they really want is a Porsche.
  • Over half of respondents want to have a housekeeper. The majority felt that having the ability to trade money for time (landscaping, personal chef, personal trainer, etc) is a sign of success. 
  • Nearly 90% said the ability to take vacations is the one luxury that most indicated financial success. (Oddly enough, over half said owning expensive electronics would make them feel successful. That's good news for Apple shareholders.)

Unfortunately, that means a lot of people are destined to feel unsuccessful.

Say you want to own a home that costs twice as much as your current home. That's a big jump, one that isn't easy to make. The same is true for a car that costs twice as much. 

And even if you get there, even if you can afford to buy that bigger house or fancier car, money -- or possessions -- doesn't actually make people happier.

Research shows that above about $75,000 a year in salary, money doesn't buy more (or less) happiness. "Beyond $75,000...higher income is neither the road to experience happiness nor the road to relief of unhappiness or stress," say the authors of one study. "Perhaps $75,000 is the threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals' ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure."

Or, in non-researcher language, "Chasing possessions tends to make you less happy."

Think of it as the bigger house syndrome. You want a bigger house. You need a bigger house. (Not really, but it sure feels like you do.) So you buy it. Life is good...until a couple months later, when your bigger house is now just your house. New always becomes the new normal.

Buy a BMW and soon you want a Porsche. Buy a Porsche and suddenly that Ford GT looks awfully appealing. "Things" provide only momentary bursts of happiness.

To feel successful, don't chase as many things. Achieve a few personal goals. Build better relationships. Actively find ways to more time with family. 

Thinking about the bigger house you bought or the fancier car sitting in the garage won't make you feel successful... but knowing you worked hard to achieve something important definitely will. The memories of the time you spent with the people closest to you definitely will.

"Success" is a state of mind that has nothing to do with possessions, and everything to do with you.

Why Achieving Your Big Goals Might Actually Make You Sad (And How to Start All Over Again)
Published on: Jan 26, 2018