Are You Choosing Between Success and Satisfaction?

April 9, 2022

Are You Choosing Between Success and Satisfaction?

May 29, 2023

Let’s double click on Arthur Brooks’ recent column on “The Most Successful People are a Little Dissatisfied” since it has such applicability to the workshop that opens our Spring season.

Research has shown that the most successful people - in terms of traditional material success - aren’t necessarily the happiest. That’s no surprise as, just when we get a raise at work or accomplish some important goal, we become enamored with some new shiny object. It seems to be the American way. No doubt, there’s upside in this “analytical rumination hypothesis” as it’s part of the way we progress but it can also distract us from what’s most meaningful in life.

David Brooks (unrelated to Arthur) wrote about this in his book “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.” He suggests that the good life is about moving from material pleasure to transcendence:

“That is the thing you notice about second-mountain people. There’s been a motivational shift. Their desires have been transformed. If you wanted to generalize a bit, you could say there are six layers of desire: Material pleasure. Having nice food, a nice car, a nice house. Ego pleasure. Becoming well-known or rich and successful. Winning victories and recognition. Intellectual pleasure. Learning about things. Understanding the world around us. Generativity. The pleasure we get in giving back to others and serving our communities. Fulfilled love. Receiving and giving love. The rapturous union of souls. Transcendence. The feeling we get when living in accordance with some ideal.”

In my own life, I’ve noticed that my definition of success has changed with time. While success used to be a destination - meeting a deadline, winning a competition. Today’s success is about character formation. Am I building a set of qualities - honor, truth, loyalty, compassion, generosity, wisdom - that give me a growing confidence that I am a truly seasoned human? Not raw, not undercooked, but perfectly baked. And, in so doing, I’m less obsessed with the new goal and more satisfied with witnessing my growing humanity and deep sense of connection with myself and the world. Dare I say I’ve moved from happiness to contentment as my state of being…on a good day?


If this is remotely interesting to you, we have only three spaces left in our Successful but not Satisfied workshop May 8-15 with Paula Pretlow and Jeff Hamaoui. The rest of May is already virtually sold out so if you’re hankering to come to Baja sooner rather than later, it’s worth considering this workshop.

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