Happiness Is Not Defined by Success

Miranda Walker—Honorbound

Most teenagers who strive to go to college hope to graduate with a degree that will open doors for them to be able to have successful jobs and lead successful lives. This brings about the question of what is success, and can people attain happiness through it? In economics, “the sum total of skills embodied within an individual: education, intelligence, charisma, creativity, work experience, entrepreneurial vigor, even the ability to throw a baseball fast” is known as human capital.(1) For example, someone with a higher education has a higher human capital than someone who is less educated. High-school teenagers who have a mindset of becoming successful aim for college and for highly paid professional jobs. With people so driven towards these goals, are these really the only things we care about and strive for in today’s society? Is life so shallow that all we want in the end is more money? Why do people put so much value in the number, like GPA, test scores, and salary, and less value in the individual?
I am one of the youngest members in my family. Most of my cousins have already graduated from college and are living successfully with high-paying jobs. Does their salary indicate how happy they are? Is this the end goal in life, or is there more? According to Aristotle, people, more often than not, receive more happiness from things other than wealth. If this is true, that happiness can be attained without just money, then why are teens pressured into the mindset that if they don’t work hard enough to get a job that pays well, they will fail in life? Happiness is the accumulation of many things besides just wealth. Living virtuously and with purpose is what brings people happiness. Once someone discovers their purpose in life, they are able to live it out with nobility and honor. By living with a purpose, human beings can bring happiness to themselves and to others around them.

Now I return to my earlier claim. Money cannot bring someone happiness. Or maybe it can, but only to a certain point. A study was done by Business Insider regarding the happiness that money can bring to people. This study concluded that “after you make $75,000 per year, increasing your income is not going to make you any ‘happier.’”(2) I believe Aristotle would have argued that regardless of how much money someone makes, money will never be able to fulfill one’s true happiness. Aristotle writes, that all men would agree “that to ‘live well’ or to ‘do well’ is the same as to ‘be happy,’” but at the same time, these men would “differ as to what this happiness is.”(3) After delving deeper into the true meaning of happiness, Aristotle comes up with the idea that “happiness is something final and self-sufficing, and it is the end to all that man does.”(4) If mankind could just realize these simple truths about life’s meaning and the fact that the ultimate goal of happiness does not revolve around money but rather around the intentions of an individual and that individual’s purpose, maybe somehow mankind would stop obsessing over the crazily competitive economy and instead focus on living a virtuous life that leads to happiness and creates a better world.

1 Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 127.
2 Nicholas Carlson, “Rich People Talk About How Happy Money Makes Them – What They Say Will Both Offend And Reassure You,” Business Insider, December 18, 2013, accessed June 22, 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/does-being-rich-make-you-happy-2013-12.
3 Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics (Edited by Bernardo Aparicio, Dallas, TX: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2016).
4 Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics (Edited by Bernardo Aparicio, Dallas, TX: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2016).

(Photo) “Can Money Buy Happiness? | Drink Your Juice,” DYJ The Happy and Healthy Blog Can Money Buy Happiness Comments, 2013, Accessed June 23, 2016, http://blog.drinkyourjuice.com/money-management/can-money-buy-happiness/.

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