We all want to be happy, successful and wealthy.  Although we pursue them relentlessly, they often seem to evade us.  Is it because we do not know how to reach them?  Well, yes and no.  We know a lot.  It is not as if there is not enough material on these subjects.  In fact, whether you go on-line or walk into a bookstore, you will be overwhelmed by all the available advice and opinions.  So why do they so often elude us?

Most of us think we understand these terms and how to pursue them, but we are often misled by the vast number of myths or even our intuition.  Just have a look at 19 Cliché Happiness Quotes and the (lack of) Science behind them to see how misleading some of our common beliefs about happiness are.  And look at the following two facts that research has shown us how wrong our intuition can be:

Fact: The pursuit of happiness, makes it harder to find 1.

Research has found that valuing happiness could be self-defeating.  Although happiness is a key ingredient of well-being, it is reasonable to expect that valuing happiness will have beneficial outcomes.  Paradoxically, valuing happiness may lead people to be less happy, just when happiness is within reach.

Fact: Successful people are not more happy – happy people are more successful 2.

Our intuition might tell us that if you chase success and achieve it, you will be happy, but the research has proved that it’s the other way around – if you are happy, you are more likely to be successful.

The secret lies in that you cannot pursue happiness, success or wealth; they result from pursuit of a life with purpose.

Let us first understand these three concepts:

Happiness, according to the positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky is “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” 3

Happiness is, therefore, a complex emotion that requires feeling content and " a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”  The first part of this, contentment, is a mindset, which means it is in your control and the latter part, shows us the path to happiness.  You cannot pursue happiness, you live a life of meaning, a life with purpose and contribution and happiness is as a result of that.  In fact, you do not have to even achieve success in your pursuit to experience happiness.  Just the extent to which we are making progress on our goals, makes us happier emotionally and more satisfied with our lives 4.

Success is defined in dictionaries with some variation, but it boils down to two meanings.  The one has to do with "the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted" 5 or "the accomplishment of one's goals" 6. These definitions do refer to a state at the "termination of attempts or endeavours" 6, but it is the pursuit of the goal achievement that result in success, not the pursuit of success.  This holds even more true for the other definition of success, namely "one that is successful" 5 or "a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc." 6  It is this latter one that we are interested in as it refers to a state of mind.  It is also this one that Psychologists research to learn about our self-concept or self-esteem.

Earl Nightingale, an author dealing mostly with the subjects of human character development, motivation, and meaningful existence, explained that the key to success is “the progressive realization of a worthy cause” 7.  Working passionately towards your purpose, is what leads to success. 

Wealth, too, has several definitions according to the various dictionaries, but it is the understanding of wealth by Roger Hamilton, author, educator and social entrepreneur, that is the most helpful in its achievement.  According to Roger 8,

“Wealth is not how much money you have.  Wealth is what you’re left with when you lose all your money.”

Wealth creation is not about making money. It is about creating attraction.  Even when the truly wealthy loses their money, and some have several times, the attraction that they created, draws new opportunities to them 8.

If you wish to learn more about creating wealth, you can read more about the process from Roger's books Your Life, Your Legacy or jump in with the Millionaire Master Plan Test.

We have learned so much about happiness, success and wealth.  I believe the reason so many of our efforts to achieve any of it, has to do with our misunderstanding them.  I hope that this article has shown you the importance of distinguishing between fact and myth, as it leads to a lot of wasted time and effort.  You should base your journey on what really works, not on myths – and do not necessarily trust your intuition.

Most importantly, however, is the realisation that happiness, success and wealth cannot be pursued – they are the result of the passionate pursuit of a life of (or a business with) purpose, and contribution.

"True wealth lies in your power to give and receive at your full potential. Those who grow their wealth are continuously increasing their flow, attracting more and contributing more. Only when you live at your potential can you give at your potential. Growing wealth leads to a greater income – and a greater outcome." 8

Additional Info

  • References:
    1 Mauss, I. B.; Tamir, M.; Anderson, C. L.; Savino, N. S. Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Emotion 2011, 11 (4), 807-815.
    2 Achor, S. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, 1st ed.; Crown Publishing: USA, 2010.
    3 Lyubomirsky , S. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want; Penguin Press: New York, 2008.
    4 Pychel, T. A. Goal Progress and Happiness. (accessed March 08, 2021).
    5 The Free Dictionary. Success. (accessed March 08, 2021).
    6 Success. (accessed March 08, 2021).
    7 Nightingale , E. The Strangest Secret; Nightinggale-McHugh Company: [Spoken word album] s.I., 1956.
    8 Hamilton, R. J. Your Life, Your Legacy: An Entrepreneur Guide to Finding Your Flow; The Entrepreneurs Institute, 2009.
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Geordie van der Nest

Geordie van der Nest is a Certified Executive, Career and Life Coach.

He is the Registrar of Management Consultants  at the Institute for Management Consultants and Master Coaches of South Africa, Program Director at OpenCircle (for Real Business Achievement) and Managing Director and Principal Life Coach at Heads-up Life.

He is an Accredited Executive Associate of the Institute for Independent Business International (IIBI), a Certified Management Consultant by the Institute for Management Consultants and Master Coaches of South Africa (IMCSA) and a Certified 7 Stage Business Advisor (C7C).  He is a certified Professional Life Coach, Master Coach and a Career Coach.

Geordie has 12 years' experience as an Executive and 15 years as an Executive Coach and Business Advisor.  

He worked in several types of businesses, in various industries, from start-ups to global corporations.  He holds an Executive MBA from Henley Business School of the University of Reading, UK (2018) and is currently studying towards his Honours in Psychology.

He has a passion for helping people succeed in their Careers and at Life.

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