Is a Happy New Year Without Success Possible?

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 was a happy one for you and you’re off to a great start to 2012. The start of a new year, for many, is a time for reflection upon the past year and an opportunity to set goals for the year ahead. Many of these goals tend to be based upon achieving success. I’d like to offer a different suggestion: rather than focusing upon success, focus on fulfillment.

There’s a radical difference between success and fulfillment. Success is often based on external rewards such as wealth, job promotions, new sales, the latest and greatest product to buy, etc. It is, for many, a source of short-lived happiness. Fulfillment, on the other hand, is about doing the things that bring yourself and others joy and contentment. Fulfillment is simply a product of finding meaning in your life.

Alfred Adler, a psychologist in the early 20th century, suggested that mental health is defined by one’s social interest or, as he called it, “living on the right side of life.” Adler knew that all the counseling in the world was unlikely to help his patients to achieve fulfillment if they were self-absorbed and consumed with chasing success. What he suggested, with everyday wisdom that has since been supported by experimental science, is that people get involved with others and get invested in causes that are bigger than themselves. Social support, then, and social involvement, were the antidotes to so many problems of living back then and they remain just as helpful today. Build up your support system or get involved with a local community activity or volunteer group. Make a new friend or tell an old one that you care about them. Fulfillment will be much more likely to follow.

I wish you all the best meaning and fulfillment in the year ahead!