The temptation for success is strong and alluring for most of us.

We tend to view success as a personal victory, something to achieve so that everyone else knows we are now making more money or have reached a certain level of power.

The truth is a little more complicated.

Once you have achieved success over a long period, say by building up a company or reaching a sales quota, there is a temporary sense of well-being. It feels good in the moment. However, personal success can sometimes come at a cost to those around you. More important, it's often not as fulfilling as it seems. The money comes pouring in, but deep satisfaction in life remains elusive. That's because there are several myths related to power and success, some that are well-known and a few that might seem surprising.

1. Money makes you happy

Let's start with the most basic myth of all. Despite what rich people might say, and what the most high-profile entrepreneurs insist is true in interviews, the richest and most rewarding experiences in life have nothing to do with money and wealth. You might disagree, but ask any parent about raising kids, or anyone who has maintained a healthy relationship with someone for decades, or the person who has decided to address worldwide hunger and poverty by donating most of their money and you will hear quite a different viewpoint. Building relationships, having a charitable attitude, showing empathy and focusing on others--those things make you happy in the long run. 

2. You will feel better about yourself when you achieve success and others don't

I used to think my personal success was the most important pursuit. If only I could rise to the top of the corporate ladder and prove to everyone I was a success, then I would feel good about my accomplishments and my life. Then I realized that personal success is not as satisfying as seeing everyone on a team succeed and enabling the success of others. In fact, I've come to the place where personal success is not that gratifying. In the end, focusing on yourself just means you are probably ignoring others.

3. Power is the ultimate sign of success

Those who start their own company or attain some level of executive leadership can tell you--power is not that satisfying once you finally obtain it. In fact, the related stress and pressure is often a poor recompense for what it can take to get there--namely, the broken relationships that had to occur along the way or the missed opportunities with your kids. On your deathbed, the last thing on your mind is that you became a high ranking official at a company. It will be more about how you helped others, the mentoring you did, how you raised your kids, and how you treated your spouse. 

4. To be successful, everyone else needs to fail

The interesting thing about personal success is that it often does mean you had to step on a few heads along the way and make sure everyone else didn't succeed. However, shared success does not mean you have to deny your own success. It can be incredibly gratifying to have an entire team experience success and for you to be a part of that.

5. Success always lasts

One final myth to consider is that success will last. It won't. Even those who appear to be on the top of their game and will stay successful forever still experience failure, loss, and disappointment. That's the human condition. Even those who appear to have attained success permanently are living an illusion; all success is temporary. Eventually, there is a fall from grace. The question is who will be around to catch you.

Published on: Nov 12, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.