Monday, February 22, 2010

Happiness or Success?

It was Spring 1988, and I was anticipating graduating from Colorado State University within a few weeks. The Fort Collins Collegian was the "must-read" for all the students, with the greatest comics and editorials, not to mention the personal ads! The paper always had a quote of the day, and I'll never forget one: "Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get!" It struck me as profound, and I cut it out and put it in my photo album, awaiting the day when I would truly understand it.

Fast forward 10 years or so, where I tried my hand at owning a cottage industry, worked in a variety of Financial District buildings in San Francisco, moved back to Colorado, on to working for Villeroy & Boch, Coach, and Nordstrom; then on to Atlanta and finally back to Denver. No matter where I was, or what I was doing, I was always trying to follow my heart's desire to be successful.

For me success was wearing a navy suit and high heels, carrying my Coach briefcase and portfolio. I was hungry for the elegance of wealth, the carefree attitude that I thought would come with success. It all looked so lovely, and I was dying to have some. Was it celebrity, fame, wealth or just the big dollars that I was missing? I never seemed to feel successful enough. I had a hard time making rent and whatever it was, it never seemed to really make me happy.

What it did make me was a stressed-out wreck! A frequent-flying sales manager hungry for the next deal, but with bad case of indigestion and 7 missing copies of the same Dan Brown novel. I felt like another rat in the rat race, but this one had bad phone manners, no time to wait, no patience, just a drive for success. I thought I was happy, but I had a knot in my stomach and jet lag.

Luckily, I got a clue.

It isn't in working that you will find success. Success in found in a life filled with happiness. If I'm too busy to be happy, then success will elude me as well. Ah, clarity!

Then I lost my job in the economic downturn. I thought, well, kiss success bye-bye. But, in truth, the opposite happened. I found a very supportive husband, family and friends eager for me to do what I wanted to do, and be what I wanted to be. I found former colleagues keeping in touch and not writing me off. Most importantly, I found time to do and be and have fun! I redesigned and overhauled our backyard garden, staying in budget and time constraints. I cleared out and reorganized files and my office. I attended events to network for the sake of networking and meeting great people along the way. I learned a new skill, and applied it for friends, thereby making us both happy! I said "yes" to volunteer work and new opportunities.

My happiness is a husband who likes me even for my flaws and faults. Most importantly, I found happiness within myself. It wasn't my job, my title, my office location, or my travel schedule. It didn't come from the praises my bosses used to sing. It wasn't in a shopping bag or a jewelry box. It seemed to bloom like that "volunteer" black-eyed susan that we didn't plant in our garden, and grew just as quickly. Happiness indeed, is wanting what I have.

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