in Cognitive Wisdom, Prism of Life

One of the very basic issue with most commonly accepted definition of success is that more often than not it ends up advocating a single yardstick — read money — as its universal unit of measurement.
An objective analysis of this commonly accepted unit of measurement invariably exposes all its inherent limitations.

For example, money can’t buy:
Certainty and control
Satisfaction and happiness
Peace of mind
Commitment and loyalty

And if you keep digging, probably the list may go on and on…then why do we see such a mad rush to associate this yardstick with success?

Well, the reason is simple — you keep looking for simplification all the time. In the name of simplicity, you don’t shy away from accepting a projected image of success that looks more like a caricature — absurdly oversimplified, too optimistic, and devoid of any contradictions.

Single Yardstick

Do you even know all the limitations associated with this yardstick?

The irony is even if you happen to overachieve by the commonly accepted yardstick — the next big challenge would be to hold onto your achievement— as long as you can — giving rise to fear of loss: the most dreaded fear ever.

Has anyone warned you about the inherent pitfall associated with success?

There are two things that most of the successful guys are reluctant to share.

* You are constantly bugged by the fear of losing it all. The more you fear the more you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your climb.
* Once you are on the path to success your future progression would be anything but linear.

There is no harm in pursuing your most cherished dream as long as you are not craving to become the most famous and rich person. Because becoming one depends on a lot of chance and factors which are outside your control.

If you are attaching an exaggerated expectation from your dream — I’m afraid you are just confusing your monetary ambition with your passion vehicle.

You can lie to the whole world but you cannot lie to yourself.

Signs of Control

If you are seeking an absolute control of the entire process — you are setting yourself for massive disappointment. You just can’t have a set of favorable conditions attached to your desired outcome.

Functional MRI studies show that feeling of control is a big motivator for us to act. The freedom to act as per our wish makes us a happy soul.

And therein lies the seed of your unhappiness; as you start craving for absolute control to maximize your illusion of happiness.

Don’t you see how your expectations can prove to be so unrealistic?

Because in reality, your control in life is nothing but minimal.

As soon as you surrender your desire to control things (that lies beyond your circle of control) you become more pragmatic to accept things as they are and not as you wish them to be. And this is possible only if you are able to identify the contours of your own circle of control and competence.

Signs of obsession

Success — read money — is so intoxicating and addictive that it becomes an end in itself.
Is it possible for you to differentiate between passion and obsession?

If you’re finding yourself in a position where the line between the two has blurred to such an extent that you no longer feel the need to differentiate — you need to pause a little bit to bring more awareness.

Start looking for signs where your obsession disguised as passion is ostensibly making you behave like a compulsive gambler. Is your life becoming a medium through which your obsession is finding an expression — making you forget how to live life in the process?

Signs of paradox

The Economist Richard Easterlin measured the life satisfaction of Americans in 1946 against that of Americans in 1970. He came up with the conclusion where material progress was not reflected in increased life satisfaction.

This revelation was termed as Easterlin paradox: once all the basic needs have been met, incremental financial gain contributes nothing to happiness.

In other words, once you have succeeded in reaching up to the higher steps of the ladder that is sufficiently above the financial safety net, money no longer remains a critical factor in shaping the quality of your life.

The constant tug of war between gratification and search for greater meaning is something that will always keep you preoccupied  — and will end up competing for your limited time and attention.

If you notice carefully it’s the space between two musical notes that gives a unique identity to the music, similarly the quantum and quality of meaning that you manage to incorporate between pleasurable activities will end up giving your life that much-needed uniqueness.

Signs of Expectation

There exist a common perception about the positive correlation between success and expectation. As a consequence, the higher expectation is ostensibly treated as the primary cause of higher success.

There is no doubt that a life without desire or dream is often seen as a wasted life. But if you start treating your desires as something you must have at any cost — then I’m afraid you are on a path of self-destruction.

Because come what may, all your desires can never be fulfilled — as innumerable factors that are beyond your control play a critical role in translating your desire into reality.

And if you are obsessively married to your own idea of the fulfillment of desires — be assured you wouldn’t remain a pleasant person anymore. If you are brave enough to dig a little deep, you are bound to discover that quite a large number of your unhappy moments are in fact nothing but a byproduct of your unrealistic expectations.

One of the most practical ways to address this is to get into an early habit of drawing a realistic distinction between expectations, desires, and absolute necessities.

The distinction helps you in putting things in proper perspective where the scope of exaggeration is arrested at the very beginning itself.

Signs of EGO

Once you find yourself on the ladder of success — One of the uninvited guest who never forgets to pay you a visit — is EGO.

As soon as you start exploring newer and bolder milestone of success, this ego gets inflated further. The sense of self-esteem tends to acquire more importance than the sense of realistic assessment and proportion.

As a consequence, the faulty perception of exaggerated self gets so strong that it keeps resisting the diagnosis of any kind.

If your aspiration is to make a name for yourself you shouldn’t forget that even names like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet would find it tough to survive for another century.

If you develop the requisite humility to view your own importance from a macro perspective, you will soon realize that there exists an inverse correlation between the size of your ego and the quality of your life.

Parting thoughts

There is no denying that financial success feels great, but to have a successful life what you need instead is consistency in happiness.

Career success doesn’t always make you happy. In fact, the research shows that it’s not the success that brings happiness, the formula is other way around.

Your relationships play a pivotal role in your long-term happiness.

Researcher and bestselling author Shawn Achor reports, “In a study, I performed on 1,600 Harvard students in 2007, I found that there was a 0.7 correlation between perceived social support and happiness. This is higher than the connection between smoking and cancer.”

Success is much beyond the quantum of government certified security papers lying in your bank accounts, your exclusive designation, or number of holiday homes owned by you.

It is a process of developing an attitude where the external yardstick becomes meaningless and stop bothering you anymore.

You start seeing your life as an adventurous journey where you are no longer obsessed with the destination.

You are happy to make choices, where you are not stressed about the uncertainty of the journey anymore.

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