Being a few years out of college, it’s about the time when my peers and I look at each other to evaluate and compare the varying degrees of success we’ve achieved. Some of us have reached mid-level jobs in our careers, some of us have gotten engaged or married, some of us are well-established and making good money, and some of us are achieving our dreams.
Arianna Huffington is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter because of her positivity, inspiration and encouragement and commitment to a healthy mind, body, and work/life balance. She shared an article last week from Entrepreneur comparing success to happiness, emphasizing the fact that they are not one and the same as some may think – a very relevant point for my fellow millennials and me. Having been at a crossroads of my career before, I have had to face that question: Join the corporate world with a consistent paycheck or freelance in a cut-throat, unpredictable industry?
They say that money can’t buy happiness. Maybe it can at first; paying the bills and having extra funds to splurge on a night out or a new pair of shoes is undoubtedly satisfying. But after a while, I think we all learn that designer bags and a closet full of cute outfits don’t have long-term effects on our state of being. Material objects won’t bring us happiness. They’ll make us happy for a moment, but chances are it’s probably not fulfilling. So much research has been done to show that investing in an experience is better for us than splurging on a material item.
I would be a hypocrite to say that I’ve never spent a lot of money on material possessions – I’ve had shopping sprees and have decided to buy the designer bag despite not really needing it. But I’ve also been lucky enough to be able to invest in traveling, and the overseas trip I took last year is one that I’ll never forget.
We often think that attaining certain things – whether material or not – will make us happy. “I’ll be happier after I buy the new iPhone” or “I’ll be happier when I’m in a relationship.” But more often than not, these statements are false. We can show off that we have these things and maybe others don’t, and maybe that might be satisfying for a moment. We want these things because aside from happiness, we think they are markers of success. But maybe they aren’t.
Perhaps the mark of success is different for every individual. Maybe it’s starting a family. Maybe it’s landing a dream job. Maybe it’s safely backpacking across Europe alone. Or maybe it’s just figuring out exactly what we want and going after it.