Redefining success: Why happiness should be the ultimate goal – Ramadimetja Makgeru
Success has long been associated with material possessions, power, and status. I grew up in the rural parts of Limpopo, where the struggle to make ends meets is a common occurrence. Like many others from a similar background, I recall being encouraged to work hard in school to get jobs that would allow me to buy that big double-storey house in the suburbs far away from my village or drive the most expensive car in the market like the rich lawyer uncle that was able to make it out. A regular sight in the dusty streets of my home village when I was growing up, and to this very day, are kids running after a fancy car and the driver telling them to focus on their school work to reach that level of “success”. We were conditioned to believe that being successful means attaining material possessions that will, in turn, give us power and status in the communities we live in.
I personally feel that this traditional notion of success has left me and many others unfulfilled and unhappy. South Africa’s expanded unemployment rate, which includes those discouraged from seeking work, was 42.6% in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to an article on Trading Economics’ website. Employment is the most significant income generator for individuals in a developing economy such as ours. If almost half the population isn’t able to generate the very income we base success on, then we are creating a breeding ground for not-so-happy individuals. If people aren’t able to access material possessions, in the conventional sense of spending their own money to acquire them, then this makes them unsuccessful; if we wanted to rely on this traditional notion of success, that is.
Let’s redefine what success is.
It’s time to redefine success and prioritise happiness, not material possessions, as the ultimate goal.
We need to encourage young adults to focus on their well-being and happiness and ultimately make that a measure of their success. According to the World Happiness Index, South Africa ranks 102 out of 149 countries. This means that a significant portion of the population is unhappy, and it’s time to address this issue.
One way to redefine success is to consider happiness a vital aspect of success. Instead of measuring success by material possessions and professional achievements, we need to measure success by the joy and fulfilment one experiences.
One story dear to my heart is that of Mo Gawdat, author of Solve for Happy and other related books. He grew up believing that success meant earning a lot of money and having a fancy job. His intellectual gifts landed him executive roles in various companies. He created significant wealth but realised he was desperately unhappy. He attacked this problem as an engineer would, scrutinising all the provable facts and carefully following logic. When he was finished, he uncovered the equation for lasting happiness. Mo found his mission: to help others become happier by pouring his happiness principles into a book and spreading its message worldwide. He now successfully dedicates his time to writing more books and creating podcasts around this topic.
Through numerous studies, psychologists and happiness experts in South Africa generally agree that happiness should be the ultimate goal because it positively impacts mental and physical health, improves social relationships, increases productivity and creativity, and ultimately leads to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
Here are some specific reasons why happiness should be the ultimate goal:
- Improved Mental Health: Studies have shown that happiness is strongly linked to improved mental health. When people are happy, they experience less stress, anxiety, and depression. Happiness also boosts resilience, which helps individuals better cope with challenging situations.
- Better Physical Health: Happiness is also linked to better physical health. Happy people tend to have lower levels of inflammation, a more robust immune system, and a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- Improved Social Relationships: Happiness has a positive impact on social relationships. Happy people are likeable and approachable and have more robust social support networks. This can lead to better relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.
- Increased Productivity and Creativity: Happiness is linked to increased productivity and creativity. When people are happy, they tend to be more motivated, engaged, and innovative in their work.
- Fulfilling and Meaningful Life: Ultimately, happiness leads to a more fulfilling and meaningful life. People who are happy tend to have a greater sense of purpose, meaning, and overall life satisfaction.
Some simple tips to increase happiness include practising gratitude, engaging in joyful activities, and building solid relationships with friends and family.
In conclusion, it’s time to redefine success and prioritise happiness as the ultimate goal. As a society, we must shift our focus away from traditional notions of success and embrace the idea that satisfaction is vital to success. Let’s encourage other young adults to prioritize their well-being and happiness, leading to a more fulfilled and successful life.
Some Useful Resources:
The Happiness Project South Africa – is an organisation dedicated to promoting happiness and well-being through workshops, seminars, and coaching sessions.
The Centre for Applied Positive Psychology – a research-based organisation providing training and coaching in positive psychology.
The South African Society of Psychiatrists – a professional organisation providing resources and support for mental health professionals and individuals seeking mental health services.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group – is a non-profit organisation that provides support and resources for individuals struggling with depression and anxiety.
The University of Johannesburg Positive Psychology Centre – a research centre that focuses on studying positive psychology and offers workshops and training programs on well-being and happiness.
 Solve For Happy – Audiobook – Mo Gawdat – Storytel: https://www.storytel.com/bt/en/books/solve-for-happy-127003
About the Author:
Ramadimetja is an Activate Leadership graduate with a passion for community engagement and development. She is a freelance writer with a specific interest in mental health, wellness and education. She uses her writing as a form of advocacy to educate others and bring attention to matters in these subject areas.