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We’re conditioned to believe that once we achieve success, we’ll be happy. Once you lose weight, marry your soulmate, complete a triathlon, or increase your company’s revenue, you’ll be completely satisfied. Right?


But there is a link between the two. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Grit, explained it in an email to me recently. Turns out, we had the formula all wrong.

It’s not this:

It’s this:

Angela’s email stressed that it’s not money or professional achievements that make a person happy. It’s the other way around—happiness can jumpstart your career and put you on the road to rich.

I agree, because I’ve lived it. The second I started viewing success as the pursuit of my passions, everything changed.

I’m not successful because I do 300 burpees at 5 a.m. or run marathons with monks in Japan. I’m successful because of the way those activities make me feel. When I’m physically and mentally at my best, I get shit done and I do it well.

Focus on your personal wellbeing and the door to real, no-bullshit success opens wide. Optimism and a healthy mind drive people farther, faster.

What You Can Learn about Success from a Millennial

It’s tempting to call millennials slackers because they’re not burning the midnight oil every evening. It’s not that they don’t care about climbing the corporate ladder, making six figures, or buying a big house. It’s just that they define success very differently than their parents and grandparents.

A recent study by Deloitte of 7,700 millennials found that work-life balance is the number-one way they evaluate job opportunities, handily beating traditional reasons like career advancement and professional development. Put more simply, they value experiences and capturing memories over social status and possessions.

Take their lead. If you’re still defining success the old-fashioned way, it’s time to adapt or be left behind.

This doesn’t mean you should stop crushing it at the office. The idea is to put work into yourself and your relationships first. The self-awareness will ensure you find a job you love, and the balance will keep that passion stoked for life.

You’ll still crush it at work, but it’ll be because you want to, not because you need to. Or, worse, because someone is telling you to.

Plus, you’ll enjoy these other key benefits:


1. You’ll appreciate the process
Take it from my friend Jay Jackson, a former wrestler and current assistant principal at Palo Alto high school. “If getting into the best college is what’s going to make you happy,” he says, “you’re never going to be happy in high school.”

In other words, if you’re always focused on the result, you won’t be able to enjoy the journey.

Think about it: The process is 99 percent of the journey. The result is only 1 percent. So you’re going to be miserable pretty much the whole time. What are you really achieving if you’re not happy while you’re achieving it?

You need to fall in love with the process. That means doing what makes you happy, and never doing it half-assed.

Why did I build the Spartan empire? Because I love challenges, races, and people. If I were only focused on reaching a certain company valuation, I’d be miserable right now. The process is exhilarating.

2. You’ll spike your self-esteem
No surprise here, but high self-esteem leads to enhanced initiative and an increase in overall happiness. When we feel good about our skills, talents, personality, and passions, we feel more motivated and content.

But if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others or striving to attain goals that don’t align with your values, your self-esteem is going to take a hit. In today’s world, it’s easy to look at social media and start to feel like you’re not good enough or you’re not doing enough. In fact, studies show that high social media use is linked to negative self-esteem.

So put your phone down. Stay in your lane. Focus on yourself. If you stop comparing your success to the perceived successes of others, you’ll start winning big.

3. You’ll improve your relationships
If you’re constantly chasing material gains, spending all hours at the gym, or sleeping at the office, your relationships are going to suffer. Determination and passion are great, but overworking yourself only leads to burnout and stress.

When was the last time you had a deep conversation with your significant other? How long has it been since you hung out with your best friend?

When you put all of your time and energy into one thing, is doesn’t leave room for much else—and those around you will take notice. Putting in the time and doing the work is important, but don’t adopt tunnel vision. If you do, your support system is bound to disappear.

And what’s the point of success if you have no one to share it with?

Want more hard-hitting advice on resiliency, leadership, and whole-body health?

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