Recently someone emailed me the following question:
“Do you think motivational speakers help people find happiness?”
It’s an interesting question. My answer is no.
I don’t believe most motivational speakers help people live more happily. And usually that’s not why organizations bring in motivational speakers. They’re not concerned about their group being happy. They concerned about them being successful.
Unfortunately a lot of people believe that the concepts of happiness and success are married. I believe they’re mutually exclusive. There’s little connection between success and happiness, which is why so many successful people are miserable.
In a country founded on the principal of ambition, a lot of us jump out of bed each morning in pursuit of our goals. We feel compelled to achieve. And most people measure their achievement with external factors such as acknowledgment, promotion and, of course, the building of wealth.
While these things feel great temporarily, they don’t lead to long-term happiness. In many instances, they lead to disappointment. Once that moment of victory wears off, a lot of people ask themselves, “Ok, I accomplished my goal. What now?” Usually they set a new goal and the cycle repeats. People rarely succeed and just stop.
Let me be clear: I’m a strong advocate for success. Life should be dynamic. We need to survive. We need to grow and we need to contribute. We all live better thanks to the success of others.
But if your sense of happiness is contingent upon achieving goals, you’ll be chasing it forever. Success is fleeting. Joy should not be conditional. It should be a mental state we can experience at any moment of our choosing.
A motivational speaker can’t make you happier. Nor can a mate. Nor can wealth, fame or a trophy. No outside force will be enough to sustain positive emotions. They can lead to few good moments, but long-term contentment must come from within.
The key to happiness is gratitude. Being good with what you’ve got. Wanting what you have instead of having what you want. That’s something that you control and you can experience it now.
Again, I’m not suggesting you become a joyful couch potato. Quite the contrary; I encourage ambition. However, if you can start off living happily, maybe you’ll enjoy it more when you succeed, and bounce back quicker when you don’t.