What is the Difference Between Success and Happiness?

In one personal development seminar I’ve attended, our trainer asked us one by one, to define and differentiate success and happiness.


If I were to ask you the same question,


What is the difference between success and happiness?


What will you answer?

Success _________________.

Happiness _______________.


Note:  Take a couple of minutes to reflect and answer.  And then once your ready with an answer, go back to this post.

People have different definition of success and happiness.  However, most likely your answers belongs in these four (4) categories:

  1. Happiness = Success
  2. Happiness < Success
  3. Happiness > Success
  4. Happiness + Success


Personally, upon hearing such question, I wondered if it isn’t the same.


If you were like me, you’d gauge success to mean like happiness, and happiness to mean like success.  For how can you differentiate the two when they go hand in hand?


Oftentimes, we define happiness as being successful, wherein the way to be happy is upon reaching the success of whatever goal or endeavor we take in life.   We delay happiness and perceive it as an end result of achieving our goals.


However, unlike fairy tales and novels, where happiness is in the end of the story, real happiness does not come at the end of our story or life.  Happiness knocks in our door everyday.  But it seems most of us ignore it because we are locked with the thought that happiness is in the end of our journey,  only after we achieve all the goals that we want, acquire the wealth that we aspire or found the perfect love we’ve always dream of.  Unless we acquire all those ideals that we want to have, we find happiness as a dream that will come in the future.


But later on in my journey to life, I’ve learned that,

Happiness is not an end but a journey.


One of the participants in the training answered that being happy means being contented.  And being contented is a big hindrance to success.

A lot of people sacrifices happiness in exchange for success.  Like for an instance, when a mother skips her daughter’s graduation in exchange for a meeting call in the office.  Or a man that spends his night away in an out of town company engagement in exchange for the anniversary celebration with his wife.


For these kinds of people, they give a lot of value in “delayed gratification”.  They sacrifice a lot of today in exchange for the big reward of their goal in the future.


Oftentimes, upon reaching their goals, these people are lonely and depress because upon reaching it, they were alone.  The reason most of the time is broken relationships.


Too much delaying happiness in exchange for success has caused these people to forget all the other important things in life, like family, friends and other significant ones.


They neglect the thought that today is what they have.


People who values happiness over success are those who lives in simplicity or often called mediocre or average.


They care less about success and achieving their goals for they value contentment of what they have now.  They dream less and get a lot of happiness in simple things.


If we are living in a perfect and easy world, I would love to belong in this group because of the contentment and simplicity of life they lived in.  However, in an imperfect world full of chaos and crisis just like ours, living in a complete contentment without goal results to a big mess and hardship.


Oftentimes, those who stop seeking for success and lives in mediocre ends up being manipulated, used or slaved by other people.


Gratitude is a great attribute anybody can have, however, too much can lead you to an aimless life.  A life that just passes by that leaves out no mark and contribution.


After every one of us has answered the trainer’s question, he gave his answer.


Success is having what you want.  Happiness is having contentment in what you have.


Upon hearing the answer, I thought to myself, “Being successful and happy is not a bad idea.”  But how can you have both?


Like a light bulb in the head, the answer struck me a few minutes later.


The best way to live life is by setting your goals for the future without neglecting to live now and having the grateful attitude for all the blessings you have in your life at the moment.


How about you, in which category do you belong?


  1. Hi,

    interesting thoughts. I completely agree. However, I think that “happiness” is a tricky word. I had a shot at trying to define it in a more “scientific” or “objective” way, despite it being a subjective feeling:
    What is happiness?

    I would love to hear your thoughts!

    Thank you,


  2. sher estrada says:

    In my previous job, every person in my office falls under Category 2 — everyone aspires for success because that is what everyone does. So you should go with the flow, or else you’ll suck up.

    What I’m trying to say is, even if you know what you really want and you know for yourself what is the right to do, you will still end up doing what everyone does BECAUSE THEY ARE JUST TOO INFLUENTIAL YOU CAN’T EVEN HANDLE IT.

    Whether we admit it or not, happiness and success is also driven by external factors for those people who can’t decide on their own and/or those who aim for nothing. It is important to set your goals first, hold on to that goal, then everything goes from there.

    For the readers: I’ve read articles here related to goal setting, I recommend you read it as well 😉

    For the moderators: Keep up the good work, looking forward to more life-changing articles in the future!

  3. Thanks for your really nice comment sher. I agree, external factors are indeed great influence on what and who we become. I remember a saying that goes, “be careful in choosing who your friends are” coz eventually, who they are who’d be who u are..

    There’s nothing bad to be influenced by others, for at times it brings good to our life, but to avoid being toss around by opinions.. u have to set a goal in ur life. and with having such, can bring u greater success and happiness in life. 🙂

  4. You explain the difference between happiness and joy … and then bliss. So what about pleasure? I read somewhere that says when in comparing happiness and joy, happiness is the outer and temporary however when it was compared to pleasure, pleasure became the outer and temporary and happiness took the place of joy as the inner and more permanent……. your thoughts.

  5. Hi Corrine, thanks for your comment. The article differentiated happiness versus success. 🙂

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