I firmly believe that the unrelenting pursuit of outward success is one of today’s chief sources of unhappiness. …[P]eople driven by success are rarely satisfied, no matter how high they climb-no accomplishment gives lasting satisfaction. Whenever they reach one level of success, they imagine yet another, higher level. The income they once dreamed of now looks like a starvation salary. It comes down to this: people who equate happiness with success will never achieve enough success to be happy. They’re like Sisyphus, interminably pushing a rock up a hill. Ironically, Sisyphus’s only period of happiness was probably that short moment when the rock was rolling down-when he wasn’t pushing, when he had time for self-reflection. But self-reflection would probably have been the last thing he’d have wanted. His conclusions would have been depressing indeed
The inner restlessness and discontent that accompany the pursuit of external success have ruined many a person. Paradoxically, happiness rests on being satisfied both with what we have and what we don’t have. That dual satisfaction is a solid foundation for a feeling of well-being. The happiest people are often those who are content with their present state, and who don’t want things they can’t get.
Manfred Kets de Vries in Sex, Money, Happiness, and Death — the Quest for Authenticity.
Kets de Vries is a professor of Leadership at INSEAD university in France. He is a trained psychoanalyst with doctoral degrees in both economics and business.