Obsession with Success: XNUMXst Century Epidemic?

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Louise Hay
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Obsession with Success: XNUMXst Century Epidemic?

We live in a society that is constantly obsessed with success. But to what extent is the concept of success natural or cultural?

Last update: December 13, 2020

We have such an obsession with success to the point that it seems to define the our personal value. If someone does not have the goal of earning a lot or having an "enviable" job, they are asked: "So, what is your aspiration?". As if success, translated into money, should be the backbone of life for each of us, at all times.



How many times have we met someone who is more successful than us? How many occasions have we compared our car to another newer one? Or our house to a bigger one?

Why do we always want more? Why do we sometimes cling to this aspiration even though we are aware of the pain we will receive in return? But the real question is: Is achieving maximum success inherent in the human being or is it a condition imposed by society?

The obsession with success: natural or cultural?

From childhood we are bombarded with messages that speak of the ideal life plan. A certain ideology is imposed on us which often prevents us from seeing other points of view. If they teach us to think that being successful means having a lot of money, we can only believe that the goal of the human being is to accumulate money.

If we are taught that success means treating others well, our goal will be to be good people. This is how social influence plays a fundamental role in our social and personal aspirations.


There is no natural law that states that human beings must accumulate a lot of money or have a lot of property. The obsession with success is a social and cultural imposition. Many, however, do not realize it.


Surreal and unreasonable needs have always prevailed in society. If from an early age we associate success with having the best job, that is likely to be the idea of ​​success for us.

"Of all the qualities that bring about happiness, I am deeply convinced that selfless love is the most effective."

-Mathieu Ricard-

The obsession with success and frustration

The most common epidemics in the XNUMXst century are depression and anxiety. In 2016 the WHO (World Health Organization) stated that more than 350 million people suffer from depression. And in 2012 he stated that the most worrying aspect is that "in 20 years, depression will be the disease that will affect humans most, overcoming cancer and cardiovascular disease".

Could this have something to do with an obsession with success? Absolutely yes. Wanting to reach unreal goals at all costs makes us frustrated when we fail. Many people say their life is a failure because they don't have a good job, have a "normal" car and live in a "not so big" house.

It is evident that they do not appreciate what they have, even though they are richer than most of the world's population. It is as if they are walking looking at the sky rather than looking at the horizon or the earth. Bit by bit, however, we are getting closer to a healthier concept of success: being happy in the here and now.


Appreciating what we have and heading in a morally correct direction is much more admirable than the desire and anxiety to accumulate material possessions and prestige. If we take a closer look at those who have an obsession with success, we will see that they suffer most of all.

On the contrary, those who care about others and enjoy what they have are happier. Being happy with what you have does not mean being satisfied, but rather knowing how to appreciate what you have in present time.


"He who has more is not rich, but he who needs less."

Diogenes and Alexander the Great

The story goes that Alexander the Great wanted to meet Diogenes, who lived in a barrel, one of the few things he owned. Some regarded him as a loafer, others as a sage. When Alexander the Great went to visit him, hoping that he would congratulate him, they engaged in a conversation.

Alexander turned to Diogenes, who was lying in the sun, saying: "Ask me what you want. I can give you whatever you want, even those that the richest men in Athens would never have the courage to dream of ”.

Diogenes had the possibility of radically changing his life, of going to live in a palace, of having a great fortune. But his response was not what we all expect. Diogenes replied, “Sure. I won't be the one to stop you from showing me your affection. I ask you to move away from the sun. Being touched by its rays right now is my greatest desire. I don't need anything else, and only you can give me this joy ”.


Alexander is said to have said: "If I were not Alexander I would like to be Diogenes." This anecdote reflects how cultural some needs are. For Diogenes, success was staying quiet and enjoying the sun; for Alexander the Great it was the boundless ambition to conquer more and more lands.

From obsession with success to compassion

Matthieu Ricard, doctor of molecular biology and Buddhist monk, has been dubbed "the happiest man in the world". Ricard states that "compassion, the intention to eliminate the suffering of others and the causes of suffering, together with altruism, the desire to make others feel good, is the only unifying concept that it allows us to find our way through this maze of complex worries".


Ricard uses "maze of worries" as a synonym for the world we live in and which, in some way, we have created. And he argues that compassion gives meaning to our existence. So instead of just looking at our success, happiness is much of the meaning of life depends on attention to the interests of others.

He adds that “happiness is not just a succession of pleasant experiences. It is a way of being that is achieved by cultivating a series of fundamental human qualities, such as compassion, inner freedom, inner peace, resilience, etc ".

And he also reveals the secret to developing these qualities: “each of these qualities can be cultivated through mental training and altruism”.

All happiness in the world comes from thinking about others. All the suffering in the world comes from thinking only of yourself.

-Shantideva-

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