We use this term a lot, but what do we really mean by that?
I noticed that statistically, "success" is associated with recognition or fame, or reaching a significant financial level (or both).
I also found that:
there are many people who - by failing to achieve such understood success in life, get frustrated and question their worth because of it,
many people who have succeeded this way are not permanently satisfied with it,
many people have achieved it and became rich and famous, and were satisfied with their lives. The question arises if they were satisfied thanks to their success or regardless. In many biographies, you can read that in many cases, even though they lost their property and the world forgot about them, they remained content.
What is it then that we are looking for, that we call "success," striving so hard to achieve it?
It seems very likely, looking at the human stories, that we unconsciously equate success with personal happiness, and that is why we want it so bad. Since we believe that fame and money lead to it, we choose such goals to achieve satisfaction. However, practice shows that the so-called success, depending on the adopted criterion, may mean something different for everyone and also paradoxically, some may achieve it in poverty and being anonymous. Perhaps, we are not concerned with fame or money, but with the kind of feeling we believe arises when we are at the height of fame and wealth? What kind of feeling is that? Do we really have to work hard to achieve it? And what does that actually mean - to work hard, anyway?
For many years I have been looking at the term "hard work," functioning socially, and I have noticed that this expression is associated with such effort that generates fatigue visible to the naked eye - sweat, exhaustion, facial expressions of physical and mental depletion - proverbial blood and sweat. It does not refer to effects, but only to the contribution of effort to the process. Someone who is visibly tired and "tormented" after work can be clearly considered "working hard."
Contrary to this model, a person who does not show signs of exhaustion, anguish, and, on the contrary, is vigorous and content after their work, is not usually considered hard-working, even if their results were impressive. It is often suggested that their work was not hard enough, meaning in this case - valuable.
Something is of value - statistically - that comes with great difficulty and hardship and with visible signs of them - suffering written all over the face and posture.
Work that is fun, light and amusing, even if it brings visible and considerable results, is not widely considered valuable and there is a suspicion that there must be some dishonesty behind it.
The latter brought me to another observation.
I have noticed that many people emphasize in public how hard they work. I saw that for some reason they need to say it loudly. It has come to me that they probably need from others to notice the amount of effort they put into their work because it helps them compensate for the lack of satisfaction coming from it, which, despite the effort, does not bring the expected results. They value their work according to the approval they receive from others.
I also noticed that there are people who never emphasize how hard they worked, regardless of their actual effort, and are characterized by the cheerfulness and lightness with which they work, and the satisfaction they get from its results. They see its value without the need to demand or expect other people's assessment, as they experience the effects of their work on themselves and/or on their environment, and these serve them as an evaluation.
I wondered how the two attitudes differed, and it led me to a particular conclusion. The first is the attitude of someone who perceives the meaning of what they are doing through external recognition of their efforts in others, as they clearly do not see them in their work as such. The second - the meaning of their work they derive from internal motivation, independently assessing their effects on their own and other people's lives, without the need to confirm it with outside opinions.
It seems, looking from a certain perspective, that the effort to obtain external qualities always leads to dependence on the will of those who offer them, no matter if it's money, fame, words of recognition, acceptance, praise, favor, or whatever comes from other people. Moreover, if we feel deeply that our work does not bring us real satisfaction because something important is missing in it, no words of appreciation, even the most sophisticated ones, will fill this void in us.
Observing numerous human attitudes, I noticed that people who see meaning in their work and life get more satisfaction out of them in general. They perceive the meaning as becoming a better version of themselves and contributing to others' lives, and it triggers their strength in moments of weakness and the persistence to get up after countless falls on the way to inner achievements.
No pursuit of external values will provide us with deep and lasting satisfaction. Perhaps only temporarily, it will give us some adrenaline and endorphins, but in the long run it will not maintain the level of energy and well-being that comes from not having to pursue anything as we know that everything we need for this is within us.
If we do not like our current work, we can change this state of affairs and feel the satisfaction and freedom from external motivation today, right now. And I don't mean quitting your job at all.
Before we make any changes in our physical, external reality, the change needs to be made in our mind in the first place, and to do it we do not need any "hard work."
We must first understand that fame and money as a "means" to success is a poor motivator unless it is accompanied by wanting to achieve a better version of ourselves, of which fame and money can only sometimes appear as a side effect. However, it will not matter much to us even if it does not happen as the satisfaction of achieving our inner goals creates a kind of well-being in us that sees opportunities in everything and ceases to see limitations in anything.
By answering questions about every aspect of what we dislike in our work or in our life, being brutally honest with ourselves, we may discover that we do not need to look for a new job or partner, but notice something in ourselves, what needs change perhaps or give to ourselves what we expect so much from others.
What can bring joy to our lives and to the others around us? How to like those we don't like at our work? How can we make better use of the little money we earn? How to learn a new skill that will bring more value to where we work? How to bring a smile to someone's face?
A different point of view changes our feelings and these - change our reality. Sometimes a few minutes of constructive thinking is enough to change our lives significantly.
The oldest experiment on happiness in the world, led by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, conducted at Harvard University for almost 80 years, has shown that what gives us joy is the healthiest motivation and a pill for longevity, and the straight path that leads to happiness. The evidence reveals that joy is brought to our lives by the quality of our relationships with ourselves and others, which, as a consequence, provides us with self-esteem, happiness and good health.
As for "hard work" leading to success ... We can follow Confucius's wisdom who allegedly said centuries ago: "Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work another day in your life."