10 Best Difference Between Success and Happiness

Nov 20, 2023
Difference Between Success and Happiness

Success and happiness are distinct concepts with distinct differences that often elude definitions. Thinkers and social scientists have long attempted to solve the riddle surrounding these notions but to no avail. Does happiness equal success, or vice versa? Despite centuries of research by prominent personalities, these questions remain unresolved; success and happiness seem intertwined inextricably. People who thought achieving success would satisfy them often felt disillusioned when their goals had been achieved, believing it meant little since they were already contented. This article seeks to illustrate the distinctions between happiness and success by exploring each term separately.

What Do We Mean By Success?


To define success, one may define it as the achievement of a specific goal. As an example, let’s say a student who worked tirelessly studying for and passing an exam with flying colours achieves this feat, marking a monumental success and feeling both proud and content in his or her achievements – this feeling follows temporary happiness but it comes from feeling accomplished with what you accomplished!

When others compliment you for your achievements, it can make you feel good – but this doesn’t represent real happiness; rather it satisfies only your pride and ego with praise. A person may experience material happiness through success by turning that success into money; however, this may only provide temporary satisfaction.

What defines happiness?


Happiness is the opposite of this feeling of fulfillment, it’s a sense of fulfillment. People can find happiness by admiring nature or playing with children. Hobbies can bring fulfillment too you’re no longer competing against anyone; just improving yourself in pursuit of hobbies makes one happy – which proves happiness does not require success to reach.

Real happiness does not depend on success alone, yet many mistakenly associate the two concepts as synonyms. Instead, they set goals that they believe will bring them happiness when achieved. Although there may be moments of happiness in their lives, people still ache for real happiness to arrive. People who think happiness will await them at the end of their journey are just fooling themselves; happiness does not exist externally. Happiness is an inner feeling and does not rely on external factors for fulfillment. Once you achieve success in life, however, the glorious sunrise will bring more joy than anything a toddler playing will ever bring you now – these people just want their minds tricked into believing happiness depends on achievement rather than having true contentment when success has been attained.

Comparison table Between Success and Happiness

Inspect Success Happiness
Definition Achievement of goals, external accomplishments, recognition, and societal markers of achievement. State of well-being, contentment, and emotional satisfaction.
Measurement Often measured by external factors such as wealth, status, career achievements, and societal recognition. Subjective and internal; measured by personal emotions, life satisfaction, and overall well-being.
Source External achievements, accomplishments, and recognition from others. The internal state of mind, self-acceptance, and contentment with the present moment.
Persistence Success can be transient and fleeting; continuous pursuit of new goals and accomplishments. Happiness is more sustainable and can be cultivated as a long-term state of being.
Impact on Well-being Success may not guarantee happiness; individuals can experience stress, burnout, and a lack of fulfillment despite external achievements. Happiness positively impacts overall well-being, mental health, and life satisfaction.
Focus Often focused on external validation and societal expectations; driven by ambition, competition, and the pursuit of goals. Focused on internal fulfillment, self-acceptance, personal growth, and the cultivation of positive emotions.
Relationship with Others Success can lead to recognition and admiration from others, but it may also strain relationships and create envy or competition. Happiness often fosters positive relationships, empathy, and a sense of connection with others.
Subjectivity Success can vary greatly from person to person, influenced by individual goals, values, and cultural expectations. Happiness is subjective and varies for each individual; what brings happiness differs for each person.
Long-Term Impact Success alone may not guarantee long-term fulfillment or happiness; individuals may continue to chase external achievements. Cultivating happiness can lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful life, impacting overall well-being in the long term.

The Relationship Between Happiness and Success

Lyubomirsky King and Diener (2005) conducted numerous studies that demonstrate how happy people tend to be more successful in many areas of their lives, such as work performance, health and income, friendships, and marriage.

These findings are explained by a conceptual model created by the authors, who assert that happiness and success are linked not just because people become happier when achieving success but also through its beneficial effects.

The study examined three forms of evidence:

  • Cross-Sectional Longitudinal Experimental Our findings indicated that happiness was closely associated with and preceded a variety of successful outcomes, as well as certain behaviors being linked with them.
  • Evidence indicates that positive affect, an essential component of well-being and happiness, is at the root of desirable traits, resources, successes, and other important elements in one’s life.
  • What comes first – happiness or success? It can seem like the chicken-and-egg scenario!
  • Happiness should come first. To achieve success, however, one must learn to be content.
  • On the flip side of this coin lies the idea that success always precedes happiness.
  • Are You Deliberately Unhappy Right Now? | Does Success Guarantee Happiness? Millions of people around the globe would disagree with your statement as success doesn’t always lead to happiness.
  • Many people can be happy without necessarily being successful; at the same time, there are also many highly accomplished individuals searching for ways to be truly happy.
  • What is the relationship between these two concepts? That will be our topic of discussion today.
  • Under the theory of fight or flight, humans are wired not for happiness but for survival.
  • Life can be challenging; our pursuit of happiness often results in nothing tangible being reached.
  • Happiness is something many of us seek and hope to attain in life, yet fail to understand that happiness is more a state of mind than a physical destination.
  • Even the most upbeat individuals can experience moments of depression.
  • Norrish & Vella-Brodrick (2009) examined whether happiness was even worth seeking, with the longstanding debate surrounding what constitutes an emotionally fulfilling existence and its pursuit.
  • More people than ever are searching for ways to become happier.
  • Self-help literature and books have seen tremendous growth over time, which serves as a telling indication.
  • Social scientists have only recently begun exploring happiness. Norrish & Vella-Brodrick (2009) assert that psychology has historically focused on treating mental illnesses, pathologies, and dysfunctions rather than on building happiness in its practitioners.
  • Some social scientists even went as far as suggesting that studying human emotions was an indulgent task when compared with understanding human suffering.
  • Some psychologists contend that the traditional negative view of psychology overlooks the positive aspects of human behavior.
  • Positive psychology has begun to make inroads quickly into society.

Which One Is More Important?

  • Success and financial wealth do not guarantee happiness and security.
  • Happiness cannot be attained if one pursues a successful career while experiencing problems in his or her personal life.
  • No matter how happy or successful your relationship or life may be, success and financial issues still can pose challenges.
  • At their core, happiness, and success are interlinked indicators, your level of contentment affects both variables.
  • Norrish and Vella Brodrick (2008) explore dynamic equilibrium theory or happiness set-point theory.
  • This concept suggests that your happiness level remains relatively consistent regardless of changes to your personal circumstances.
  • Humans can adapt quickly to changes in the environment, which may explain their high happiness threshold.
  • This ongoing process of adaptation is known by various terms, including “hedonic control” or “homeostatic regulation”.
  • Researchers discovered that while lottery winners initially experienced elevated happiness levels, these soon returned to normal after they won.
  • Paralysis patients who initially expressed high negative affect were also adversely affected by this illness in similar ways.
  • This conception makes it challenging to conduct research or implement interventions aimed at increasing happiness among individuals.
  • Recent research has produced some important advancements in the area of happiness set points.
  • Diener (2006) refined the original hedonic treadmill theory, providing information derived from data analyses of both the Victoria Quality of Life Panel Study (QLS) and the World Value Survey (1990).
  • Diener proposed five revisions to his original Hedonic Treadmill Theory
  • Happiness levels tend to be above neutral; most people tend to be happy most of the time.
  • Individuals may have different levels of happiness they seek.
  • Each may possess its set point and show various rates of hedonic adaptation.
  • Happiness levels may be affected by certain life events, including the death or disability of a spouse.
  • Individuals adapt to changing circumstances at their own pace, yet positive coping strategies may help people return more quickly to baseline happiness levels than without.
  • These revisions suggest that happiness can be altered through intervention.

Simple Activities That Can Promote Happiness at Work

  • Express gratitude to those who are generous.
  • Walking meetings. Make it part of your routine to put yourself first.
  • Connecting with peers and getting to know them can be essential in developing happiness.
  • Moss recommends taking advantage of coffee breaks once every week as an opportunity to socialize and make new connections by dropping by strangers’ desks to say hi and hello.
  • Connecting quickly can open the doors to new opportunities for collaboration.
  • Be in the habit of thanking people regularly – whether by sending an email before leaving for the day, or texting someone expressing your appreciation for a job well done is an effective way to show your appreciation. A bit of praise goes a long way!
  • Walking meetings are another excellent option to keep in mind; walking while conversing can be an engaging way of stimulating one’s mind and increasing productivity.
  • Stretching and moving more will increase our productivity at work.
  • Moss encourages his readers to develop a habit of being Yourself – this means prioritizing you first! Doing this might include spending 20 minutes reading something that makes you happy or taking an extra five minutes for coffee breaks.
  • Start small to allow your mind to recharge and be more productive throughout your day.
  • Moss (2016) asserts that emotional control and effective leadership depend on having a calm, productive mindset.
  • Moss asserts that happiness can help us better navigate change.
  • Emma Seppala is the Science Director for Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education as well as the author of “The Happiness Track”.

She describes change this way:

  • External events and circumstances cannot be controlled and they constantly change; whether at work or personal level. What we can control, however, is our mental state and mindset.
  • Seppala emphasizes the significance of building resilience, cultivating inner peace, and remaining calm when chaos arises.
  • Even during times of conflict or hurt feelings, cultivating patience helps us make more informed decisions even when upset.

Seppala recommends developing internal resilience by:

  • Meditating and breathing exercises are both fantastic ways to enhance health.
  • Engaging in activities that strengthen the nervous system.
  • This practice helps us manage that overwhelming feeling and navigate the unexpected challenges of life more easily.

What are The Benefits of Success?

Individual goals and perspectives influence the benefits that success provides;

here are some common benefits associated with it:

  • Financial Stability – Success can often bring with it tangible financial gains, such as higher incomes and wealth accumulation. Financial stability provides peace of mind as it opens doors to greater opportunities and provides for a comfortable lifestyle for you and your loved ones.
  • Professional Recognition and Growth, An accomplished career can bring advancement, promotions, and an increase in job opportunities as well as recognition from peers, superiors, and the entire industry.
  • Reaching personal goals and overcoming challenges can increase both confidence and self-esteem, providing individuals an opportunity to showcase their abilities while taking pride in their achievements.
  • Opportunities for Impact and Influence, Success opens doors to leadership and influence positions, providing individuals the ability to make a positive difference both locally and globally. Success provides individuals with a means of inspiring and motivating others.
  • Expanding Your Network & Connections, Forging relationships that support success can often be the cornerstone of success. Mentorship, collaboration, and access to new opportunities create supportive networks that foster an influential circle.
  • Personal Development and Growth, For success, continuous learning, acquiring new skills, and pushing oneself outside one’s comfort zones are integral parts of successful living. By engaging in personal development and growth efforts, one may experience an increase in resilience as well as gain access to wider perspectives.
  • Material Rewards and Experiences – Success can bring material rewards, including luxury possessions, travel experiences, and exclusive opportunities that enhance the quality of your life and create unforgettable experiences. These material rewards can increase the quality of life while creating incredible memories.
  • Satisfaction and Fulfillment, Success that aligns with an individual’s passions and values can bring great satisfaction and fulfillment, leading to overall well-being and overall happiness. Living a life driven by purpose while meeting one’s goals may bring about this result.

As these benefits may be linked to success, they don’t guarantee happiness or fulfillment in life. To live an enriching and meaningful existence, it is key that personal happiness and professional success coexist harmoniously.

What are The Benefits of Happiness?

Happiness brings many advantages and can positively transform all areas of your life.

Here are a few key advantages of happiness:

  • Happiness and improved physical health are intrinsically connected. Researchers have discovered that happier individuals tend to be less stressed, healthier, and more resilient.
  • Happiness and mental well-being go hand in hand, with increased happiness being linked to lower rates of depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness. People who are happy tend to show greater resilience, optimism, and positivity than their counterparts who remain unhappy.
  • Strengthening Relationships – Happiness is the cornerstone of positive relationships, and those who are happy tend to form stronger and more satisfying bonds with family, friends, and romantic partners alike. People who are happy tend to engage in supportive and empathetic behaviors which foster deeper bonds between one another.
  • Happiness has an invaluable effect on productivity and success, helping individuals become more motivated, creative, and focused – which in turn improves performance both academically and in careers.
  • Better Coping Skills – Happiness can provide an effective framework for dealing with hardship. Happier individuals tend to be more resilient, have greater emotional regulation capabilities and increased problem-solving capacities than their less happy counterparts.
  • Happiness has long been linked to increased longevity. Studies indicate that happier individuals tend to experience fewer premature deaths and age-related illness risks, and also tend to enjoy a better quality of life when they grow older.
  • Happiness is one of the key components to creating a fulfilled and satisfying life experience. Placing priority on happiness helps individuals align their choices and actions with their values, leading them to discover greater meaning and purpose in life.
  • Positive Ripple Effect, Happiness can have an immediate and powerful positive effect on personal and social situations alike. When people feel joyful, positive energy tends to spread – creating an environment more harmonious than before.

Happiness is a subjective concept, so its benefits will differ for every individual. Cultivating happiness requires self-care and reflection on oneself as well as gratitude, meaningful relationships with others and oneself, and gratitude towards God and oneself.

Why Focusing Too Much on Success?

Focusing too heavily on success has numerous negative repercussions and drawbacks, as it can become self-indulgent and distort your judgment of what constitutes success. There are various reasons why this could be problematic.

  • Imbalanced priorities, A focus on success over other aspects of life such as relationships and health can create an unbalanced focus that overemphasizes external achievements at the expense of more important areas like relationships or health. Neglecting any one of these aspects could result in an unhappy, dissatisfying life that leaves no room for balance or satisfaction.
  • Unrealistic Expectations. The pursuit of success often brings with it high standards and expectations that are both self-imposed and affected by social pressures. Setting unrealistic goals or striving for perfection may cause chronic stress and anxiety.
  • Burnout can result from striving for perfection without sufficient self-care or balance, leaving one emotionally exhausted and lacking the motivation to continue their tasks. Cynicism or feelings of detachment may also accompany burnout; furthermore, mental issues such as anxiety and depression may arise due to burnout.
  • Reduced Enjoyment and Fulfillment, Focusing solely on external indicators of success like wealth or status can leave people feeling discontent despite meeting their goals; true happiness comes from deep connections between people, with purpose-driven activities providing lasting fulfillment.
  • Relationships Are Compromised, Placing success as the top priority can strain relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners – leading to less social connection and difficulty managing work-life balance as well as feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Limitation of Personal Growth, Too much focus on success can stifle personal development and growth. It can discourage people from taking risks, exploring opportunities or engaging in hobbies that fall outside their definition of success. Learning from errors, trying new experiences, and venturing outside one’s comfort zone are essential for genuine personal development and growth.
  • Loss of Authenticity – When success is defined solely by external standards and social expectations, people can often lose touch with who they really are. Pursuing success often necessitates forgoing passions, values, or unique strengths which creates an uncomfortable feeling of disconnection with themselves as people.
  • Reduced Happiness and Well-Being, Too much focus on success can diminish overall happiness and well-being, leading to constant striving and dissatisfaction, along with an incessant search for external validation. Happiness lies within relationships rather than simply reaching external goals.

An enjoyable life requires finding a balance between personal success and well-being, which involves setting realistic goals while prioritizing personal development, self-care and relationships alongside external achievements.


In the end, the two can be described as two separate aspects that complement each other if pursued thoughtfully. While success can provide external benefits, real happiness is found in cultivating contentment and gratitude, as well as positive relationships. Finding an equilibrium with ambition, and internal happiness is the key to living an enjoyable and fulfilling life.