Why Success Can Be So Painful

December 29, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

You no longer have to worry about putting a roof over your family’s heads, putting good food on the table or having access to proper health and dental care. All of the “basic survival” needs have been taken care of for you and your family. Beyond that, you may have some extra money in the bank and some creature comforts. You have become “Successful!”

So, why does it seem as if life is more complex than when you were scrounging for beer money?

It’s fairly common for celebrities to complain about how drastically fame and fortune have altered their lives, usually for the worse. Of course, they get little sympathy from the “common folk” when they complain that their lives have been ruined by their celebrity status. The problems that very successful people develop are considered by some as “good problems to have”; yet they are very real and can lead to increased stress and reduced happiness.

What does success mean to you?

In an article at Forbes.com, titled Why Success Makes Your Life More Complex, Not Less (And Why Understanding This Is Crucial To Your Own Success), author Michael Ellsberg explores not just the consequences of becoming successful, but also why and how anyone who seeks success needs to understand the ramifications of achieving the goal of being successful.

While becoming successful will by definition mean that you have an array of resources at your disposal, it will also entail increased responsibilities and growing demands on those resources. Whether you feel personally compelled to “do good”, or others begin to target you for philanthropy, fame and wealth can turn you into a “social object”, placing you at the mercy of strangers and familiars alike.

Your personal life may also become an object of scrutiny, with an extremely one-sided focus on judging you and your behavior. You may develop “fans”, but you will almost certainly develop detractors, as those who envy your success seek to bring you down to their level.

To make matters worse, you are also likely to pick up a variety of hangers-on, a “posse” if you will, of those who wish to bask in your success, and/or siphon some of your wealth. As Ellsberg explains, “I have never met a famous or wealthy person who does not struggle with this, often on a daily basis: ‘Who are my true friends?’”

Meanwhile, your spouse and kids look at you and wonder why you have changed, and get sad and scared by the person the world has turned you into. It gets even worse when your friends and family see how success has changed you and you don’t.

While being successful will not make your life “easy”, it can empower you – to make a difference in the world and the lives of others – by using the tools of your success: wealth, fame, and power in service to others and to the world. Therein lie the joy and freedom that comes from living life focused on a bigger, higher purpose and more meaningful goals. Ironically, that freedom was there all along; all any of us have to do is stay focused on a purpose and service beyond ourselves. The complexity and success was never needed in the first place.

What are you focusing on; success, or freedom and joy?

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Executive coach, top team facilitator, author and speaker. I work with individual leaders and their teams to help navigate personal and professional transitions and to increase leadership capacity and improve communication and relationship skills. I founded my coaching firm in 2001 following 12 years asa CEO. Check out more on me and my coaching process in my book "The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don't"

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