Friday, June 15, 2007

Success and Happiness

Success is relative, they say. Though success does mean different things to different people, I would tend to define success in terms of the impact or positive change it produces in one's life. If I say am a successful businessman, it means my business has added a positive edge to my life which was absent otherwise.

Success is a much sought after and elusive goal. But the very fact that everyone is after success in some form underlines its importance in one's life. I keep wondering why success is so important. What is it that man seeks by achieving success and by reaching the peaks of glory ? Is it a primal desire to stay on top or simply a manifestation of his inner needs that propel him to reach out for success at every step and turn. What does man seek to guarantee by attaining success in his endeavors ?

The most logical explanation I can think of is, man uses success as a vehicle to achieve happiness. Success either improves one's financial standing, heightens one's powers or simply kicks one's ego in all the right places (in terms of boast value). All these rewards of success (and anything more you can think of) are merely ways to achieve one ultimate goal-happiness.

I cannot imagine any success which does not make the successful person happy, for if it does, it is deemed a failure. So if all men are engaged in a mad rush to succeed, is that driven by a lack of happiness or an unending desire for more.

Happiness to me is independent of success. It is a feeling. It is created and manifested within the mind, unlike success which usually has a physical manifestation. It is possible to measure success using physical parameters, we always do (Fortune 500). On the other hand it is difficult to measure the level of happiness. Most importantly, happiness is not a direct result of success. It is at best an indirect (albeit predictable) response that the mind triggers when it perceives success.

What if I am successful and yet have the will power to deny using the success as a catalyst for triggering a wave of happiness (though I can't imagine why anyone would like to do this). On the other hand, what if I failed and yet have the will power to not let the failure affect my otherwise peaceful or happy state of mind (highly desirable, isn't it).

Strong willed men don't let their failure affect their state of happiness. Happiness is more a state of mind rather than some physical factor and hence is entirely in the control of the wielder. Ascetics use a technique called "detached attachment". This simply means they don't let the results of their actions affect their state of mind.

Actions of the body and state of mind are two independent entities and are separately controllable. If I choose to be happy no matter what happens, I can manage to be only if I have the will power. I am not referring to the classical optimist-pessimist theory here. An optimist sees the glass half full, the pessimist sees it half empty, whereas to a yogi it simply doesn't matter if the glass is half full or half empty, because both descriptions refer to the same thing.

To a yogi success does not induce happiness or sadness, it simply doesn't matter. So if it is possible for us to reach a state of mind where success does not induce happiness and failure does not cause gloom, why do we need to strive to succeed at all ? It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to reach such a state of mind but so does reaching the peaks of success. Isn't a mad rush for success the single most important factor for bringing out the worst in man ? If mental discipline can make success or rather the need for it redundant, would we have a better world ?