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Six Happiness Myths. Myth 4: The More Success you Have, the Happier you’ll Be.

Mel Ryan 100% you

This is Part 4 in this series. It’s about success. Here you can find Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Note: The Audio Version of ‘Myth 4. The more success you have, the happier you’ll be’ is located at the end of the article.

If Myth 3 is all about allowing ourselves to question the rules, then the biggest rule that we need to challenge would be this one. Success equals happiness.

We chase success. If you chase something, it will always have the potential of getting away. It is the same with success.

We will experience all of the happiness myths throughout our lives yet success is probably the biggest and most life-impacting myth, out of all the 6 happiness myths. In reality, it’s the one we think about the most.

Picture of a mans hand looking like he's climbing a ladder of success, a ladder towards the sky
The more successful we are the happier we will be.

You either find success or you fail.

Success is a measurable outcome. Yet the measurer, whether that be society, our families, other people, or even ourselves, will always move the boundaries. So what once seemed an exciting challenge in our quest for success, now isn’t even something to celebrate when we get there.

Success is now an advancing measurable outcome.

When it comes to achieving success our focus is not on the present, or even enjoying the experience. Our focus is on the end, the measurable achievement.

We chase the end without being in the middle.

When I've finished my degree, or when I earn more, when I paid off my house, when I get the new job. If I lose weight, when I’m fitter, when I make the A-team. If I've got more success in what I want then I'm going to be happier. We will always look for more; we will always want more.

None of this is new to anyone. We all are well aware of the close tie between success and the potential for the happiness it holds for us.

The Ladder

What I do want to do is to introduce the truth. That truth is to see just how much chasing success is leading us to unhappiness, and in reality not happiness at all.

Let me introduce you to “The Ladder”.

When you measure something it is irrelevant until it is compared to something else. A measurement by itself means nothing. When a measurement is compared, the result always ends up on a ladder. The ‘Ladder of Success’.

It goes something like this; who is better, who achieves more, who earns more, who has a bigger house, who is more successful in society. With each response, we unconsciously place ourselves somewhere on that ladder. From highest – most success to lowest – least success.

Birth introduces us to the Ladder of Success

When we are born, the wishes our parents have for us are based on this ladder. Wishes introduce us to the concept of success in life, and they’re given to us and insinuate that ‘Success equals Happiness’. This concept is embedded consciously in our minds from birth. Happiness is dependent upon the success that we have.

Representing success. A picture of a little girl on the beach with her arms outstretched
From birth we are introduced to the concept ‘Happiness’ is dependent on the success we have

Happiness is referenced to the hierarchy of who does more.

The ‘higher’ you get, the more you celebrate. The bigger the pay rise, the more you celebrate. The more we achieve, the more we celebrate.

To add to that, now we put ourselves on the ladder, in relation to where we think we belong according to how we think our success is going. We also then add in the complication of thinking about what someone else’s view of our achievement is. And then we let that influence where we end up on the hierarchical ladder of success.

We continuously, unconsciously refer to the hierarchical ladder of success with nearly all the experiences we have. The ladder never goes away.

This is where we meet the problem with success.

We know the ‘success ladder’ is based on a hierarchy and that hierarchy determines if and when we think we are allowed to feel good about ourselves. If you are to look at that ladder and pick any topic, we place ourselves on a rung. Hardly ever, if at all, do we place ourselves on the top rung.

Interestingly, When I have worked with people that have been super successful, the amazing thing is, they still didn't feel successful. Even if it’s owning multibillion-dollar companies and being outstanding in what they achieved. It still wasn't enough. They didn’t resonate with being successful. This is actually quite obvious to see when we look at some of the actors that make it in Hollywood or famous singers, and behind closed doors, they really struggle. They are still chasing their version of success.

Success is a measurable experience. The ladder exists in everything that we do.

A slide with a quote that says. With each experience we have we continuously unconsciously refer to the ladder of success. Mel Ryan
Success is a measurable experience

The feeling of success is non-existent until you compare it to something else.

Think about yourself for a moment and tune in to your responses:

  • Where you live
  • What you earn
  • What your weight is
  • Your fitness level
  • Current assets
  • The level of education you achieved

When we tune into ourselves about each of these statements we get a feeling, and that feeling transpires to ‘The ladder of success’. With each response, we unconsciously place ourselves somewhere on the ladder, from the highest rung equalling the most success to the lowest rung equalling the least success.

The ladder of success is just there, it’s always there. And we continuously, unconsciously refer to it with the experiences we have. And we don’t just use it for ourselves. We will assign everyone in our life, in everything they do, a spot on the ‘Ladder of Success’.

For instance, when a child begins school we all know there are levels when they begin reading. However, instead of chronological numbers, the levels are referred to, say, as colors. Every single child in that class, as well as the parents, knows which is the highest color and which is the lowest color. Changing to colors to not upset anyone in the hierarchy ladder does not change the presence of it. By the end of the school year, every child knows where every other child is on the reading ladder.

Take a moment to re-read your responses from the start of this section. But this time substitute yourself for a different person. Try your partner, siblings, work colleagues, family members, friends. Anyone you can think of. It’s quite amazing to notice.

The current way we use the ladder of success.

In every situation, we all put ourselves somewhere on the ladder. My ‘where I fit’ should be just a fact and void of emotion. After all the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same at everything.

However, it’s not void of emotion. We use the results of the ladder to put ourselves down. To judge ourselves. And then we judge others with it too.

We put someone else down to reassure ourselves that it’s okay we are higher on the ladder than them. Climbing over each other to get to the highest rung of the ladder we can. And if we make it near the top in anything, there we sit either all alone or with a few others, while we look down on everyone else below us. Taking delight in people’s failures becomes familiar. Because this is ‘the way we have been taught to feel good about ourselves’. Our children and their performance on the ladder and their success in life will then add to our ladder positioning.

We are not connected.

We do not support each other, nor do we celebrate each other. Our happiness is based on judging everyone’s continuing performance.

When we put ourselves down, we judge ourselves so harshly that we stop trying. We convince ourselves ‘oh, I'll never be that good’, ‘I can’t do that, I’ll never make it.’ Using the ladder of success to block ourselves from trying. Now we limit the experiences in our life. No longer do we make the most of opportunities.

We don’t celebrate ourselves.

Continuously we will use the ladder of success as a way to block ourselves from trying.

When I feel judged, I'm then not going to listen to myself, say how I feel, challenge a rule, do something different. I just want to fit. If I don't fit anywhere on that ladder then I don’t see myself as a valued part of society, or that anyone would love me. The lower down I am, the less voice I have. The worse I feel about myself. My ability to love myself becomes limited.

A slide with a quote that says. We will continuously use the ladder of success as a way to block ourselves from trying. Mel Ryan
We will continuously use the ‘ladder of success’ to block ourselves from trying

Does success equal happiness?

Or truthfully are we using success, and the ladder that comes with it, to not live?

Should the statement ‘The more successful you are the happier you’ll be’, be changed to ‘The more I refer to the ladder of success the more I put myself down, hold myself back and genuinely struggle to feel good about myself, unless I put someone else down.’

It’s a big statement, and it’s confronting.

Because we have never understood the ‘ladder of success’ before in its entirety. Seeing it from this perspective definitely explains how we get stuck. We never feel good enough. Where we feel like we circle the bottom of the bottom. Around and around with our inner voice saying to us ‘I'm never going to be able to do it’, ‘there's no point in me trying’, ‘why?’, ‘it's not fair’. ‘Nothing good ever happens to me. I am so unlucky’.

We remain trapped here never realizing that if we give ourselves permission to undo the rule ‘Success equals Happiness’, then we in fact could be part of the solution in our quest for happiness.

A slide with a quote that says. When we compare ourselves to others we do it from a place of lack. We don't do it from a place of self awareness.
When we compare we do it from a place of lack and not from self-awareness

There is a simple solution.

Turn your ladder sideways.

Every single person in your life that you know is working on something. Every situation that is presented in people’s lives gives them opportunities to practice what that is. To have a voice, to stand up for themselves, to follow what calls them, to not hold themselves back.

Turn your ladder sideways. It means that they're allowed to do it their way because their way is their way. And it's leading them to whatever they need to learn. If we had a sideways ladder, we then can't judge each other. We then can’t judge ourselves either!

The famous YouTuber, the cleaner in the office, the canteen worker, and the lawyer may all be working on the same things.

Comparing using the hierarchal ladder of success relies on judgment. We compete and the result is closely affiliated with the level of happiness we are allowed. It’s exhausting no matter where you are on the ladder.

Quote card. If we were to use comparing as a way to inspire ourselves, instead of putting ourselves down, it would absolutely change our life.
If we were to use comparing as a way to inspire ourselves, instead of putting ourselves down, it would absolutely change our life.

Comparing without jujudgment

If we were to use comparing as a way to inspire ourselves, instead of putting ourselves down, it would absolutely change our life.

When we compare using a sideways ladder, a whole new world awaits us. Our focus is moved away from performing, competing, judging, and achieving. We stop viewing ourselves through other people’s eyes. The power for finding our happiness returns to us.

Comparing without judgment is one of the most powerful ways we have to get to know ourselves.

Judgment free comparing, allows me the freedom to listen to myself, to be present to myself, to see when I get the buzz the ‘oh, I want that, I'm interested in that, I want to follow that, that feels good, I want to look like that, I want to be able to speak like that, I want to follow that path, that career.’ My comparing myself to you teaches me to look in, to know that my reaction means there's something here for me, a hint to the next step in my life.

Comparing the way we are meant to, is an uncharted way to inspire ourselves.

True success is knowing how to listen to and support ourselves.

When we focus on what everyone is doing, it’s because we are searching for ourselves. Searching for opportunities to find ourselves, to listen to ourselves. We want more for us. We are trying to listen to and support ourselves. Ultimately, we are trying to find our true inner happiness. We don’t get this by ‘making it’ on the hierarchical ladder of success.

We can become part of our life; part of our solution. To answer for ourselves ‘what do I need and how can I support myself?’ We know we want more for ourselves. We can have more. The answers are inside us.

When I return to me, I stop putting myself down. I listen to myself and what is right for me. My thoughts support me. I know what I need. No longer do I apologise for me. Challenging myself to try things I haven't. I am enough.

Happiness that uses success that comes from the ladder of hierarchy is full of judgment and competition. It is conditional upon performance. It’s only available outside of us.

Happiness that uses success that comes from turning a ladder sideways comes from deep within. It ignites the possibility of true self-love. Once found it is impossible to lose.

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Audio version of Myth 4 The more success you have the happier you’ll be

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