Why I Decided to Let Go of the Myth That Success Means I Should be Miserable
And I have never been happier — or more successful — since.
I think we’ve been fed one big lie when it comes to success.
And that lie is this: That to be successful, we must suffer.
It’s the story of the struggling athlete who moves far away from home and suffers blood, sweat, and tears on their road to Olympic glory. It’s the story of the lonely artist, who lives in tortured isolation to create a masterpiece. It’s the story of the workaholic businessman who is never home for dinner with his family. It’s the story of the do-it-all career woman who tries to balance a successful business path along with being a perfect parent and partner.
The common narrative thread is that while none of these characters get more than four hours of sleep a night, make a friend’s birthday, a family vacation, or take time off for themselves, it doesn’t matter. The end justifies the means. They all end up achieving their goals and reaching success.
But that’s all they are — characters. They aren’t real people, and their paths to success aren’t realistic.
We know these narratives all too well. Worse yet, we’ve found ourselves trapped in one of these stories of our own. It’s not our fault — our culture still glorifies the notion that the more one has suffered, the more justified they are in achieving their success.
This goes back to the hallmark of hero mythology. The rags to riches story that American ideology is built on. The framework that the best success comes when we’ve toiled the hardest, worked the longest, and paid our dues.
What if I told you that starting now, you could be more successful than ever before, and be even happier doing it?
When I was 24, I was getting my Masters, writing a novel, working at the University as a Teaching Assistant, launching a startup, and training for a triathlon six days a week. All while trying to be a supportive girlfriend, sister, daughter, and friend. When trying to balance so many delicate things, it wasn’t long before they came crashing down.
After witnessing some of the most meaningful relationships in my life erode, and being diagnosed with shingles, anemia, while experiencing other various injuries and health issues in a short period of time, I realized that I was not just sick of being sick — I was sick of how I was living my life. I was sick of sleepless nights and chaotic days. I was sick of my inability to unplug from my phone and find time to plug into community. I was sick of putting success ahead of everything else — to the point where there was nothing else left.
I decided to leave my tech job, start my own creative agency, and work remotely for a year. I traveled the world from Israel to India in search of soulful, spiritual experiences that would give me the tools to be a more meaningful addition to my friends, family, and community, and a more innovative consultant for my clients.
For the first time in my life, I had no plan for success, but I did have a plan to try and be happy.
What I learned was that happiness is a choice, and that when I made the choice to put my own happiness first, I found success followed rapidly.
- When I let go of the notion that less sleep meant more time working, I was able to wake up rested, and get work done in half the time anyways.
- When I let go of the notion that being tough meant getting more respect, I was able to find human connection in even the most seasoned of business executives. I began to land bigger partnerships based on the connection we shared, not swagger.
- When I let go of the notion that I had to be “on” on the time, I started to unplug. People started taking me more seriously because I was more present, and in turn meaningless tasks and arbitrary deadlines began to diminish.
Ask yourself, in what ways are you suffering that you would like to let go of?
Make a list of what’s causing you pain in your personal and professional life that you often justify with a “success story.” For example, I used to say, “It’s okay to only grab a juice, because I’m always on the run and being productive.” Instead of justifying bad behavior with productivity, find a way to frame the statement in a positive action, such as, “I am going to make time to sit down for at least two meals a day. I will give myself 20 minutes to sit and enjoy my meal because I deserve to be nourished, which will help me be more productive.”
This will start to change your mindset from suffering being a hallmark of success, to mindful living contributing to your achievements.
You might find that it’s hard to let go of behavior that causes suffering because anxiety and fear are tied to adrenaline which pushes us. It can be scary to let go of these beliefs and behaviors. If at first you find yourself feeling slow instead of sharp, or tired instead of energized, have patience. It’s just your body resting, readjusting, and coming up to speed out of a fight-or-flight mode it’s been in for so long. Once it has time to rejuvenate, you’ll find you’ll be far more proactive (rather than always reactive) to the world around you.
The more space I opened up in my life for happiness, gratitude, and acceptance, the more doors of opportunity opened up. The more I incorporated mindfulness and joy, the more people seemed drawn to what I had to say. The less I pushed for things to get done, the easier they happened on their own. And the best part, I’m not sick and I’m not suffering. Instead, I’m finding success in walks of life I once would never have thought possible.