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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gone Fishin' - Why Success Matters

Here's a brief dispatch from the beach, where I try to avoid serious thinking in favor of allowing the waves to mesmerize me.

Just to emphasize the paradox of the random symmetry of life I must mention that the garage door broke just before we left, almost exactly three years after we arrived at the beach and received an email from our neighbor asking if we meant to leave the garage door open. We had not. It was broken then, and it is broken now. This time we left it closed and un-openable.

But that's nothing to do with success. Being at the beach can make a person wonder if success even matters. Being at the beach in a beach rental property that is also for sale for just over two million dollars can make a person wonder if there's any point in defining success in any other way than as having lots of money and power.

So I'm just going to leave you with this little bit of wisdom: success matters, and success is not about the ability to buy a beach house.

Here's the thing. I think the drive for success is built into us. It's intertwined with the desire for meaning. Sure, people put a lot of emphasis on happiness, and happiness is definitely desirable. Howevs, the positive psychologists who study this stuff have figured out that happiness is a byproduct of being in the state of flow. And the state of flow, as I've discussed in other posts, is a condition of being totally absorbed in an activity. Now this activity is not just any activity. To achieve flow, you have to be involved in something that is challenging, but not so difficult that it's frustrating, and you have to actually achieve mastery of that challenge - and then go on to create another satisfying challenge. It's a process kind of like riding waves, if you will.

And this is why I conclude that success is important. In flow, you are continually striving for a goal, then resetting your goal and striving for the new one. It's made up of series of challenges and successes, and this process is essential to happiness. Therefore, ergo, success is important to happiness, and if we all agree that happiness matters, it follows that success matters, too.
Image by Phoebe Amory 2015

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