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Success and Happiness: Can You Have Both?

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Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, author of Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life

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Summary: Is there a link between success and happiness? Can you have both? Discover ways to enjoy your life to the fullest with insights from Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani.

“Money can’t buy happiness.”

“You’ve got to choose between success and happiness.”

“Happiness and success are just for the rich and famous.”

These ideas may have shaped your experiences, but is there any truth to them? Is it actually possible to be both happy and successful?

The short answer is yes. 

As you may know, what brings joy and fulfillment to one person may not be the same for another. It’s important to recognize that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to achieving a joyful life.

That correlation between happiness and success is not as simple as it looks,” explains Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, author of Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life. “And it flows, surprisingly, in another direction. 

However, with the right guidance, you may just find yourself heading in that direction toward a life of both.

Success and Happiness: Key Differences and Similarities

When people think of success and happiness, oftentimes, they automatically believe the two go hand in hand. After all, didn’t society teach us all along that success is supposed to bring only joy and fulfillment? It may come as no surprise that that’s not always the case.

Let’s break down the definitions of these two and see how they’re different, but also why they show some similarities:

Differences

Success is, in general, about completing something you set out to do. On the other hand, happiness is a subjective feeling of contentment and satisfaction.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison between the two:

SuccessHappiness
External and often universalInternal and personal
Achievement or accomplishmentA state of being in your emotional world
It focuses on gaining wealth (be it material, social, or intellectual)It focuses on improving your life from the inside out
It usually needs material objects to be achievedIt’s usually about subjective moments of well-being that can be triggered unexpectedly

In her book, Kristina points out that oftentimes, success is highly defined by our society. Its views on what it means to be a super successful person trigger our standards of perfectionism in different ways:

  • Success in relationships. A relationship stands up to standards in relation to its longevity.
  • Success in finance. In society, financial achievements equate to overall success.
  • Success in health. It’s often associated with having a top-model body and going on restrictive diets or workout routines.

Success, as we can see, is quite sadly, clearly defined. Yet, when we think about happiness, the story is not as simple and clear,” says Kristina. “We, as a society, fail to define happiness. And, not surprisingly, we have hard times measuring and optimizing it.

Similarities

There are, without a doubt, a few commonalities between success and happiness. Here are a few of them:

  • Both require effort and perseverance,
  • Are fueled by an optimistic mindset, and
  • Can be redefined according to personal values.

They’re not mutually exclusive, but they’re also not interchangeable. 

You can be successful without being happy, and you can be happy without being successful. However, some would jokingly argue that it’s always better to cry on a yacht than while riding a bicycle.

Does Success Bring Happiness?

This age-old question is a matter of perspective. It’s like the “chicken or the egg” debate, but with more money and fame involved. 

On one hand, being successful can allow us to live the kind of life we’ve always dreamed of, which could lead to happiness. For example, in The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner’s success in becoming a stockbroker helped him find the happiness and love he had sought for so long.

On the other hand, being happy doesn’t necessarily equal the traditional form of success we’re familiar with. An example would be the many talented people who decided to take their lives because of the “success” that comes with fame.

So, is there any scientific evidence that success brings happiness? There are two important findings to highlight:

  • The results of a 2021 study found that money can buy happiness, but up to a point. The magic number discovered by the researchers was $100,000 a year.

    However, the idea that success is the only thing that brings joy in life falls into the category of yet another happiness myth. The study showed that achieving a high monetary value improves life satisfaction but not overall emotional well-being.
  • According to this 2005 study, happiness actually leads to success. It reports, “The results reveal that happiness is associated with and precedes numerous successful outcomes, as well as behaviors paralleling success.”

    Simply put, when you prioritize nurturing and connecting with the true happiness within, your actions and thoughts will align to create long-lasting success.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. So often, people end up putting success and happiness in the same basket because they’re trying to create change so eagerly. And in doing so, they lose the pleasure of finding true joy within.

3 Ways to Increase Happiness, According to Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani

Kristina believes that happiness is not just a feeling but a state of being. 

True happiness, as she explains in her book, will come from within and cannot be achieved only by chasing external markers of success like money or fame. Instead, it requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to cultivating joy in all areas of life.

However, she highlights that “happiness is a personal phenomenon,” meaning each person’s view of “happiness” is a little different from another’s—even yours.  

Here are three insights from her on how to invite more mindfulness and joy into your life:

1. Prioritize your happiness

As simple as it sounds, people do forget to prioritize their happiness. 

“We place success on a pedestal, we prioritize it over everything else, and we do it with one goal in mind—to be happy at the end of this grueling race,” Kristina explains. 

In the world of personal development, hard work and effort are praised as the only requisites that will bring the desired results. But what about our happiness? Do we work any harder to achieve it or think that it’ll surprisingly fall out of the sky at some point?

We strive for success to be happy,” she adds. “So, the ultimate goal is happiness. But the priority is on success; happiness is often secondary in our daily plans.”

Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani’s insight: “I believe that happiness must be actively trained as a skill.” Kristina encourages you to put happiness on your priority list instead of seeing it as a reward for a life well lived. And see how your day-to-day life may change and revolve around the things that make you happy, instead of those that seem to bring you success.

2. Embrace your flawesomeness

According to Kristina, you should embrace your flawesomeness (the awesomeness of your flaws) as part of what makes you unique and lovable. So don’t hide those quirks and imperfections—they make you who you are.

It’s not about settling for mediocrity or giving up on self-improvement, but rather about being kind to yourself in the process and realizing that being human comes with its ups and downs.

Think of it like this: your flaws are like the unexpected spice of a perfectly baked cake—they add character and depth to the deliciousness. 

So go ahead, give yourself a break, and practice some self-compassion. It’s one of the greatest acts of self-love. 

Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani’s insight: “You can live authentically, sincerely, and unapologetically. You can embrace your flawesomeness and love yourself unconditionally. It is all accessible to you right now, without any further delays.” After all, life is a dance between light and darkness, and you can’t fully appreciate one without the other.

3. Align your definitions of happiness and success

Here’s a scenario: you’re chasing after your dreams, sprinting towards your goals, and you stop for a minute and realize that happiness is nowhere to be found. If this is relatable, then chances are, you’ve put success as #1.

As mentioned, happiness is more likely to lead you to success. So when you start prioritizing it, it’s like having your cake and eating it too.

So a good practice to have, according to Kristina, goes as follows:

  • Write down your definition of happiness.
  • Then define what success means to you—how do you know you are successful?

Once you’ve got your definitions down, ask yourself: how can you align them even more? Then compare the lists and see how they align and how they contradict each other.

Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani’s insight: “If happiness is a destination unique to each person, then why are we told to follow exactly the same map?” Once you define what it means for you, you may be more likely to find your own unique path.

Daily Routine for Happiness and Success

Routines are like the unsung heroes of our lives, quietly building our habits for happiness and success.

Science has said it too: having a daily routine is associated with…

  • Better mental health,
  • Increased feelings of control, and
  • Reduced levels of perceived stress.

Additionally, research suggests that people who engage in self-care activities on a regular basis are more likely to experience positive emotions and overall life satisfaction.

But where to start? According to Kristina, it all begins with awareness.

Think of it like planting a seed. You should nurture it before it grows into something beautiful. And just like a plant needs water and sunshine, change needs the right conditions to take root.

Kristina recommends doing the following exercise daily:

  • Set an awareness alarm for yourself 5–10 times a day. 
  • And every time it goes off, take a moment to check in with yourself. What are you up to? How are you feeling? What’s on your mind?

Sounds simple, right? But that’s the magic of it. By incorporating these moments of awareness into your daily routine, you’ll start to build new habits that actually make you happy and fulfilled.

Awareness usually supplies enough motivation to start changing your life in little but consistent ways.

— Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, author of Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life

Quotes on Happiness and Success

Words may serve as inspiration. So here are a few quotes to inspire more happiness and success in your life:

  • The people that you love do not need your sacrifice—they want you to be happy. Not only is your sacrifice of personal happiness pointless, but it is also a heavy burden on those for whom you so selflessly want to make the offering.” — Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, author of Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life
  • Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill
  • Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.” — Shawn Achor
  • You will do this world a great favor if you allow yourself to prioritize your own happiness.” — Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, author of Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life
  • The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” — Aristotle

Don’t forget that happiness lies in the little moments that spark up the joy within. Open your heart to those moments, and let yourself be surprised at how your happiness may be closer than you have thought before.

Embrace Success and Happiness From the Inside Out

Maybe you, too, have been on the journey of striving for success and perfection to be happy. And you may have noticed how it didn’t really work out.

However, that kind of genuine happiness is like a hidden treasure that seems so far away, but it may only lie in the one place we often forget to look: inside ourselves.

So if you need a little guidance on the path to reconnecting with your authentic self, Kristina’s book, Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life, may hold just the answers you’re looking for.

Don’t be afraid to take the next step to meet the best version of yourself. And you might be surprised that happiness was just around the corner, waiting for you all along.

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'Becoming Flawesome' is a book by Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani about embracing your individuality and imperfections. This chapter includes exercises that disrupt old beliefs and inspire authenticity, turning your flaws into strengths. Join the 'Flawesome' philosophy and start living genuinely and joyfully.Download now for FREE

Written by

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.
Picture of Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.
Learn from Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, a renowned speaker and trainer, as she guides you on a journey of self-discovery and happiness.
Expertise by

Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani is the co-founder of Mindvalley, author of the best-selling Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life, and the trainer of Mindvalley’s Live By Your Own Rules, 7 Days to Happiness, and From Awesome to Flawesome Quests. Kristina speaks about personal transformation, authenticity, understanding and accepting oneself, and a path to happiness. She was recognized as one of the top 10 influential people online making a difference in the world today and was awarded the Influencers For Change (IFC) by the Global Impact Creators (GIC).

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.