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Why success and happiness require a good measure of indifference

Published on December 8, 2015 12:00 AM EST
Be true to yourself

Why success and happiness require a good measure of indifference

You only need one word to define success: happiness. Unless your definition of success includes the term happiness, you are moving in the wrong direction. Goals that are not related to your happiness don’t make a lot of sense. The pursuit of wealth or popularity in themselves does not make a lot of sense either. You have to see success as a synonym of happiness. And then identify the factors and the kind of people that make you happy.

However, I am not going to fall for the wild subjectivity which most people use to define happiness. “Follow your dreams, and happiness will come to you,” people say. “Go after your dreams, and the world will fall into place,” others preach. Those statements will lead you to bankruptcy more often than not. Like running a business, the attainment of success and happiness requires lots of foresight, plenty of persistence, and the tough skin of an elephant. Here are some things about success and happiness that I have learned from experience.


Be true to yourself

Why success and happiness require a good measure of indifference

Have long term goals

First, it is better to have long-term goals that will keep you busy for decades, or preferably for a lifetime. Few individuals have such long-term goals though, and I am convinced that this is one of the reasons for the large number of psychologically unstable people around the world. “Carpe diem” or “enjoy the day” may be a good philosophy for children, but adults tend to feel happier, more focused, and more serene when they are working on something that gives them a lifetime perspective. The longer you can see into the future, the less you will be irritated by the annoyances and the day.


Be true to yourself

Second, know yourself and your passions. Discover your talents, and spend time developing them. This is something that not only will make you happy, but it also happens to be one of the crucial elements of success. You will always find this crucial element in people who are successful and happy. Those are people who are pursuing a great passion, a great goal, or who are having a great adventure. These are people who have identified a long-term goal that requires their best talents and efforts. Success, in particular sustained success, is all about the choice of a path, the choice of a lifestyle that makes you happy. Wealth and popularity can be accompanying elements, but they are not the real thing. What really counts is the deep psychological satisfaction that you experience from pursuing a goal that you consider of great importance.

Be true to yourself


Stop looking for approval

Third, you should not pay too much attention to other people’s opinions. In fact, I do recommend that you grow a psychological skin as thick as that of an elephant. If you are going to pursue any ambitious goal, you are going to be criticised by every cat and dog. If you are trying to do something original, thousands of people are going to say that you don’t know what you are doing. And if you are trying to start your own company or build your own brand, dozens of self-appointed critics are going to tell you that you are going to fail. Do not pay attention to those people. Paradoxically, the happier and more successful that you will become, the more often you are going to be criticised. A tough skin is going to be your most important asset if you are serious about becoming happy and successful.


Focus on information that is aligned to your goals

Fourth, learn to become totally indifferent to irrelevant or depressing information. Indifference is the element of success that people never mention, even though it plays a crucial role in getting things done. If you want to move into direction A at a good speed, then you’d better learn to become indifferent to a barrage of misinformation telling you to go into direction B or C, or telling you to stand still. You also have to learn to become totally indifferent to gloom-and-doom predictions, and to individuals who make such predictions twenty-four hours a day. If you want to be happy and successful, you are going to have to turn indifference into your best friend, since otherwise you’ll risk getting constantly off-tracked due to a million distractions and misrepresentations. Success and happiness tend to come to those who can stay on track for a prolonged period of time. And you can only stay on the right track if you become indifferent to the noises and voices telling to stop, give up, and do something else.


Less social media and more reading

Last but not least, let me give you an unorthodox piece of advice in this century of ubiquitous internet access. If you want to increase your level of success and happiness, you should be reading lots of books. I mean long, thick books, not just magazine articles and internet blogs. Books are under-appreciated because they are so inexpensive, but they still remain (even in these times of instant audio-visual publishing) the only way to transmit complex ideas, learn complex skills, and make complex personal transformations. Humanity has been been writing books for three thousand years, and individuals who read books about other people’s errors can move faster towards happiness and success. Possibly, you are already one of those individuals. Otherwise, I hope that you are in the process of becoming one of them.
Be true to yourself
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