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To be a successful yet unhappy person seems like a real paradox, but they exist far more than you might expect. Which begs the question, why are some successful people unhappy? I’ve investigated, and found seven reasons why you might be a successful person but still find yourself feeling unhappy. Fortunately, I’ve also found seven solutions to help you maintain a happy feeling.
1. You’ve hit a plateau, and feel as though you have stopped progressing or advancing
When you accomplish a particular goal or a milestone that you’ve strived and worked hard to achieve, you might find yourself with an ‘OK, so now what do I do?’ feeling. Which begs the question, what are you going to do now? The great news here is that you have a lot of other new goal options out there to choose from. You can shift your focus to another area, either personally or professionally that you’d like to work on and improve. Even if it’s something small, work toward it. Keep advancing and improving. Don’t sit still.
2. You’re constantly comparing yourself to others, especially to those who you perceive are ‘better’ or ‘more successful’ than you
This can be easier said than done, especially in today’s world of social media usage. But you need to shift and keep your focus to yourself. This takes mindful practice, and it doesn’t at all mean that you shouldn’t care about others, but it means that you should keep your focus on the fact that the only person that you’re in competition with is yourself. Your goal for today is to be better than you were yesterday, even if it’s only by a little bit. If you keep your focus on improving just a little bit, then just a little bit more, and then just a little bit more, you’ll eventually realise that you’ve improved quite a bit.
3. You’re making sacrifices and sometimes your work ethic and success isolates you
The key here is to remember to have a good work-life balance. It’s important to work hard (and work smart) and sometimes that includes spending a lot of time alone while working on various projects. But don’t forget to allow yourself to play hard as well. Remember to be social and to make time to have fun. There’s a good chance that you might even find that you appreciate your fun moments and memories even more now because you spend a lot of time working.
4. Sometimes success doesn’t meet your expectations
Sometimes you have to harbour your expectations. A lot of times what happens is that after we tackle a major goal, we realise that the goal actually has just led us to a new goal or a new series of goals to accomplish (a major goal for me was obtaining a master’s degree; which then meant I had a new goal of finding a job where I could put it to good use; which then led to a new goal of excelling at that job and gaining a promotion, and so forth).
Allow yourself to celebrate and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished. Also keep in mind that experiencing new struggles while working toward new goals doesn’t take away from what you’ve already accomplished. If anything, it adds a new layer of resiliency to your character, which is always a plus.
5. After experiencing huge highs, other things by comparison can feel like huge lows
After you experience or accomplish something awesome, other things can just feel a bit lame by comparison. Personally, I used to feel a little melancholic the day after a graduation ceremony or after attending a party or big event. But that didn’t mean that the day afterwards actually was lame, it just meant that it didn’t have the same level of excitement for me that the previous day had. The key is to keep things in perspective, and to recognise that every moment of your life isn’t always going to be exciting.
6. You’ve become materialistic
While it’s brilliant to have some fun new toys on occasion, this isn’t a contest. Just because your friend, colleague, or even just someone in your neighbourhood bought a Porsche or a Rolex, it doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to ‘keep up’ with them. New stuff might provide you with instant gratification, but not long-term happiness. But if you do feel the need to spend money, remember that buying experiences (such as a holiday) leads to more long-term happiness than buying a material object. Also remember that overall life satisfaction is actually correlated with having less materialistic values.
7. People resent you because your success reminds them of their weaknesses and feelings of inferiority
Now of course, if you’re constantly bragging about your accomplishments, then you really need to learn how to be humble and modest. But if you already are humble and modest, and people still resent you, then you need to understand and accept that some people are just going to have unfortunate feelings of inferiority. This doesn’t mean that you’re superior to them, nor does it mean they’re inferior to you either. It just means that they have insecurity issues of their own which they need to work on, and there’s nothing that you can really do here except let them know how you appreciate them. Someone else’s attitude toward your success is not your concern.
Matthew Buckley is an organisational psychologist. He earned his master’s degree from the University of New Haven.
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