Happiness and success are connected. They are intertwined in our lives by similar thoughts, feelings, and aspirations.
We have compiled definitions of success from leadership classes, coaching and mentoring sessions, and research. Based on the key words used in each definition, we categorized the definitions into one or more representative concepts. The results were clear: People use similar concepts to define happiness and success, and the two are interrelated. Happiness was mentioned in more than 25% of the definitions of success, and the top two concepts in the definitions of success were the same as the top two concepts in the definitions of happiness.
|Concept||Success Rank||Happiness Rank|
|Contentment (contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment)||1st (tied)||1st|
|Others (building positive relationships & creating a better world)||1st (tied)||2nd|
|Achievement (and accomplishing goals)||3rd||4th|
|Wealth (and financial stability)||8th||Not Mentioned|
“Happiness is more than a mere pleasurable sensation. It is a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment.”
The concept of “Contentment”, which includes contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment, was the top concept mentioned in the definitions of happiness, by a significant margin. It was also one of the most identified concepts in the definitions of success. Different people, in different environments and at different times, all came to similar conclusions when they defined success or happiness. Basically, they all agreed that feeling content, satisfied, and fulfilled in our lives is foundational to being successful and to being happy.
The next highest-ranked concept in the definitions of both success and happiness was “Others”. Others includes building positive relationships with friends and family, contributing to the community, and helping make the world a better place. So most people place a high value on how we help others when they define happiness and success.
The concept of “Achievement”, which includes achieving or accomplishing goals, was the third most mentioned concept in the definitions of success, and was the fourth most mentioned concept in the definitions of happiness. Achievement is part of success, but most people also believe we will be happier if we are achieving.
Interestingly, the concept of acquiring wealth or financial stability was a distant eighth for the definitions of success, only mentioned 6% of the time; and it was not mentioned at all in the definitions of happiness.
When we started this research, our assumptions were that most people would include the concept of acquiring wealth and financial stability in their definitions of success. What we found was that the concept of “Contentment” was significantly more prevalent than the concept of wealth in their definitions. They indicated that money in the bank, a nice house, or a nice car, are all just means to help them feel contented, fulfilled, and satisfied.