How should we measure success and happiness?

Published on 2011-05-23

I recently started my new job as a Corporate Trainer and Consultant at ClarkMorgan Corporate Training, and was reminded once again of a great quote by a wise man… “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
My interpretation of what Confucius meant by this is that although we are working, if you love your work, it won’t feel like work; and if you don’t have to work, you’ll be happy.
As an American I am fascinated by this idea of the Pursuit of Happiness and strive to achieve happiness whenever possible. When I ask people around me; however, “What makes you happy?” I get a variety of answers; from family, friends, money, pets, food, love, oh, the list goes on; but there is one answer I have yet to hear… “Me.”
What is it about happiness that makes us think that it has to happen to us? Can’t we give it to ourselves? And conversely, could we be the ones making ourselves unhappy?
China Daily recently published a Gallup World Poll of respondents in 155 countries ranking China as 125th on the happiness scale out of 155, and according to their own recent online poll, only 6% said they were happy.
I’ve actually seen this myself in Shenzhen. Here, many have come from small towns, worked hard, found great jobs, fallen in love, started a family, and improved their quality of life tremendously; yet, they still don’t feel happy. Why is that?
According to an article about gauging happiness in China, people aren’t happy because their expectations change. As they get closer to what they wanted, they start wanting more. As a result, they never end up achieving what they want; thus, not being happy.
Wang Fanghua, a professor in Shanghai at Jiaotong University’s Antai College of Economics and Management, is studying the effect of rapid economic and social change on happiness levels. He says that as people compare themselves to others, they tend to forget what they have achieved and focus more on how much less they have than others.
So is the cause of unhappiness the fact that we compare ourselves to others?
Is there really anything wrong with comparing ourselves to others?
In business, we refer to this as benchmarking; evaluating something by comparing it to a standard. This has proven to be an invaluable tool for helping businesses motivate their staff, grow their business and profits, and ultimately, achieve success.
Despite its success in business, do we blame benchmarking for our unhappiness?
Maybe the reason I’m happy or unhappy sometimes isn’t that I’m comparing myself to others but how I’m handling that information in my mind. If that’s the case, is benchmarking really the culprit? Or is it simply… “Me?”