Below is a joke from the Internet talking about what success is:
At age 4, success is…not peeing your pants.
At age 12, success is…having friends.
At age 20, success is…having sex.
At age 35, success is…making money.
At age 60, success is…having sex.
At age 70, success is…having friends.
At age 80, success is…not peeing your pants.
What is success? I think everyone has their own definition of success, and just as the joke describes, the definition changes as the person changes. So what is success? For me I think that if you do your best in everything you do and don’t have any regret in your heart thereby feeling at ease and happy I call it success. Sometimes real happiness is not from succeeding but from trying one’s utmost then even if you don’t succeed you can still feel happy.
In Taiwan there are many people who think that if you have a good job and high income then you are successful and, naturally, also happy. But research tells us differently. A study published a few days ago about medical doctors in Taiwan said these professionals have high social status and high income but only 30% think they are happy. In fact 13.7% of Taiwanese doctors have melancholia serious enough to need psychiatric help. Why are a lot of successful people unhappy? Because many people are living in others people perception of success and not from their own. For instance, many young people in Taiwan, when going to university, choose to study law, medicine and electrical engineering. This is not because they want to but because they are obeying what their parents are telling them to do. Their parents think being a lawyer, doctor or engineer is a good profession, ensuring that their children will be successful and have fulfilling lives. But now we see how only 30% of doctors think they are happy. We also see from newspaper gossip how many very successful people also have alcohol or drug problems.
Success and money can bring happiness, but they are impermanent. If someone thinks success and wealthy are equivalent to happiness then he will relentlessly pursue endeavours that may brings success and wealth but in the end find that the endless pursuit has brought them no happiness and maybe even destroyed their life. Look at Conrad Black for an example.
How about freedom? Can it make people feel happy? There are two kinds of ; one is of the body and the other one is of the spirit. Many people think freedom is to let yourself do whatever your body urges. But submitting to the body’s desires is not real freedom. Real freedom is through self-restraint for then your spirit finds freedom. This is true freedom. Buddhist doctrine warns that indulging all desires or forbidding all desires will not lead the seeker to enlightenment; only the Middle way can! So to lead a satisfactory life and have happiness one cannot overindulge in nor prohibit all desires. You need a balance.