Written by my favorite person in the world, Kamal J. Mirwani.
What is the true measure of success, and how does success factor in to happiness? Arguably, success is what we strive to accomplish on a daily basis in a plethora of ways. The digital age has given us unparalleled access into the lives of people we should not, and otherwise would not, compare ourselves to. Young girls now idolize the disproportionate, surgery-enhanced asses of the glitterati-those people deemed too beautiful for mere mortals to fully emulate. Young boys now watch with awestruck expressions and dilated pupils as daredevils hop from rooftop to rooftop, seemingly oblivious to their own mortality, but fed by a continuous stream of likes; the currency of social media approval. We do not see the pain involved in botched surgeries since no one shares failure on social media, only success. We do not see the stories of rooftop jumpers plunging to their deaths because those stories are too discouraging to tell. Everyone is obsessed with success, but gluttonously gorging on the social media success stories of others ironically causes feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing for young people, these days who are unable to meet the unrealistic standards of their idols.
Away from social media, parents compare and contrast the lives of their children as if they were assets. “My son is a doctor,” exclaims the typical Asian mum, as she beams with pride. “My son is an engineer!” Exclaims another. The third remains silent as her son, merely 24 years of age, still seeks to “find himself” in the world. The plastic smiles the youth put on for their parents so that they feel loved, accepted and successful, they are nothing more than timid lies. These lies fester into rotting wounds that leave gaping rifts and psychological scars. Suddenly the kid who “found himself” is traveling the world and finding happiness on his own terms, while the doctor and engineer suffer in silence, living the lives of their parents rather than their own.
In the workplace, what is it that truly motivates the young and inspired? Wads of imaginary currency, put into corrupt establishments that leech off ordinary people? The prospect of getting ahead in life and finding happiness around the next corner? Perhaps meeting some long-term target that inevitably leads to confusion and emptiness since the chase is always better than the catch. We tend to measure success by how long we can maintain our positions at work, by how often our salaries are increased and by what skills we think we learn, as a result. But really, does this lead to happiness? This busywork occupies the mind, certainly, and a bursting bank account allows for bragging and spending sprees; but is this really happiness? Those who seek more time to themselves, to indulge in simple pleasures that most would call “lazy”, have found little bubbles of happiness that the judgmental masses seek to burst. Spending a few hours immersed in a videogame, a book or in any other hobby deemed “childish” or “stupid” is happiness that many fail to understand. Finding little moments of success by beating a videogame level, overcoming a horrible obstacle with your favorite fictional character or even just making a small meal, these successes are too miniscule to measure, and are deemed unworthy for anyone to experience by the facebook generation and young professionals who see work as their only salvation. If it cannot be measured in wealth, practical skill or by social media likes, no one should be entitled to this type of happiness. Best to bury yourself in your workplace screen and work a few more hours for that Employee of the Month bonus, right?
How does someone know if they are in the perfect relationship? They compare and contrast based on other preconceived notions of happiness. Have I hoisted my girl over my shoulders at some overcrowded concert? Have I taken her to the Maldives and dived in its pristine waters? Have I bought her expensive gifts so she can brag to her friends? Most importantly, have I taken photos of all this and uploaded it to Facebook for the world to see? Our happiness does not exist unless others watch, judge and approve; like some sick pantomime. Relationship success is no longer about spending a silent moment with someone you love while being lost in their eyes. Nor the fluttering of your heart as your hand touches hers. People would take pity on the man who finds happiness in looking into his girl’s eyes and seeing the world in them but being too poor to show the world to her. And yet, therein is the purest measure of success in a relationship. Strip away the glamor, the likes, the expectations, and is there real love left? People seem to build relationships on the unstable platforms of nothing other than the approval of others. How “hot” are both parties, how rich are they? Do they have exactly the same interests? In reality, the real question should be, when things are boring and dull, when they are just laying together, can they still feel content and happy simply to have their other half beside them?
Success is a term that is difficult to pin down and define since it is so markedly different for every individual. Yet, success is beginning to become “standardized”; a checklist of things to cross off before you can be deemed successful in the eyes of the public. This checklist is what we now equate with happiness. Those of us who go against the grain, who live for ourselves and shun public opinion, we are the ones who may have the smallest shred of a chance at finding both, success and happiness. Make your own checklist, play that video game, spend a few extra hours taking that bubble bath, enjoy a few days of unpaid vacation. Live YOUR life. Measure success by your own terms, measure success in small dollops so that you always feel somewhat accomplished. Most of all, live for yourself and appreciate your successes without comparing it to others. This, I think, will lead to happiness that is measurable to every individual on a very personal and meaningful level.
Thanks for stopping by!