Although a lot of people have succeeded very well based on society’s standard for success: how much money and power they have, many—if not most—of those people are not really happy or nurtured by their “success.”

Arianna Huffington’s call for a redefinition of “success”

In a recent issue of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, posted the following:

Man on yacht with phone and laptop“I’m happy to announce that next week, on June 6th, Mika Brzezinski and I will be co-hosting the Huffington Post’s first-ever women’s conference, “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power.” As the title makes clear, the purpose is to discuss ways to come up with a new definition of what it means to be successful.

“Right now, the two metrics of success that drive the American workplace are money and power, but by themselves, they make a two-legged stool — fine for balancing on for a short time, but after a while, you’re headed for a fall. And guided by this limited definition of success, more and more “successful” people are falling.

“So what we need is a more humane and sustainable definition of success that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder, empathy, and the ability to give back. But how do we recalibrate our current benchmarks of success? That’s what we’ll be discussing.”

Success without happiness

Here’s the question I think needs to be asked: Can one claim to be truly successful if one does not experience happiness and psychological well-being?  I don’t think so.  It is a very empty “success” if it includes unhappiness and psychological pain. 

As my colleagues and I have learned after working with almost 14,000 clients from 142 countries in the past 28 years, many of those who had reached the pinnacle of material success and power were still very unhappy.  Here are six of their major complaints.

  • They are often driven compulsively to be successful, usually at the cost of time with their family.
  • They are worried about what others think of them and are constantly trying to impress others with the symbols of their success.
  • They have a hard time experiencing and expressing love in their relationships.
  • They fear rejection.
  • They are often plagued with a negative sense of self that no amount of conventional success is able to cover over.
  • No matter the degree of their material success and power, they are plagued by the “imposter syndrome,” in other words, they feel they don’t deserve their success and fear it could be taken away from them at any time.

You cannot be said to be truly “successful” if you suffer from these six complaints.  Thus, I think that the third metric of success has to be an inner sense of well-being and happiness, which would require eliminating these complaints from one’s life.

Unhappiness in all its forms is caused by beliefs

In helping our clients eliminate these six complaints so that they could achieve success as evidenced by all three metrics, we discovered that the source of the complaints are beliefs about ourselves, people and life that we form early in our lives.  Beliefs like, I’m not good enough, I’m not important, What makes me good enough and important is having others think well of me, If I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected, What makes me good enough and important is being successful, I’m not worthy or deserving, Relationships don’t work, and I’m a fake and fraud.

Can you see how these beliefs and others like them would inevitably lead to the six complaints listed above that cause so many of us to experience unhappiness much of the time—regardless of how much money and power we might happen to have?

Are you really successful if you are overwhelmed by stress?

Arianna goes on to point out:  “One of the keys to changing our definition of success—and making sure our workplaces reflect that new definition—is getting our business leaders and shareholders to realize that what’s good for employees is also good for the bottom line. Stress costs U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion annually, according to the World Health Organization.”   (

There is growing evidence that people’s stress is not caused by their circumstances.  A recent study by the University of Arizona concluded that eliminating 19 of the most common negative self-esteem-type beliefs (some of the ones listed above, plus I’m powerless, mistakes and failure are bad, I’ll never get what I want, I’m inadequate, etc.) reduced stress on the Daily Stress Inventory (a popular measure highly correlated with illness) by 51.9%.  (Here is a link to that study:

These beliefs can be eliminate

The beliefs that sabotage our happiness and psychological well-being and that cause stress can be easily and permanently eliminated.  To try an on-line, interactive process that will enable you to eliminate three of the beliefs that cause the complaints I listed above, please visit  Almost 150,000 people have eliminated a few of their negative beliefs using the process on this site.

It is time to add happiness and psychological well-being as the third metric of success.  And then eliminate the beliefs that sabotage our ability to attain that crucial new metric.

Thanks for reading my blog.  Please post your questions or comments on what you think the “third metric” should be.  Your comments will add value for thousands of readers.  I read them all and respond to as many as I can.

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Copyright © 2013 Morty Lefkoe