Success is overrated

Success, go!

Why success is nice, but overrated in our culture - and meets the criteria for narcotic drugs. A - perhaps unsuccessful? - Trying on the nature of happiness.

Success is nice. It is a pleasure when what one strives for comes about. If you never succeed in anything in life, you wither. I am not a little pleased that the “Presse am Sonntag”, of which I am one of the fathers, is successful. And aiming for a concrete success is also essential in order to make the cooperation of a team fruitful. But overall, success is overrated. Above all as a yardstick for evaluating a person - for example yourself - in order to take stock of a life.

The real thing that people are looking for in their lives does not seem to me to be success, but security. You only think of success for that. After all, you learn at school that only the successful person is left in peace by the teacher. The recognition in the applause of the crowd at the finish line, on the center court or when proposing a public marriage has something special about it. But the emotional impact of a sense of achievement does not last. It calls for repetition and improvement. These are the criteria by which one recognizes a drug.

Success doesn't make you happy - but luck makes you successful. With this realization, the US author Shawn Achor achieved great success. He has compiled a number of studies, all of which prove that those who think positively are more successful. And what do thousands upon thousands then do? They make an effort to be happier - in the hope of being more successful. This shows the whole dilemma of a culture that is fixated on success: Because if I'm really happy, what do I care about success?

According to more recent findings in the social sciences, success also depends much more on chance than the successful people want to admit. So if we can only partially influence the result - wouldn't the performance brought in be a better indicator of a well-lived life? Shouldn't the capable one be our role model? I do not know. Is it really better just to strive for success than to have success too?


My experience is: Happy people do not follow the standards of success that the world sets for them. But also not those that he sets for himself. The really happy person has been lost in fulfilling claims because he has experienced himself and his being as a gift without preconditions. And that makes him free to do what makes really happy - and also secure: he loves. Love has no concept of success at all. Perhaps that is why the word “success” does not appear once in the Gospels.


The author was deputy until 2011. Editor-in-chief of the “Presse” and is now head of communications for the Archdiocese of Vienna.

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("Die Presse", print edition, June 16, 2019)