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Why Success Won't Make You Happy (And What to Do About It)

06/01/2015 11:58 am ET | Updated Jun 01, 2016

For years, the Huffington Post was always the cool kids' table that I longed for from a distance, eating my bologna sandwich alone in my quiet corner of the blog-o-sphere (I mean, not really because bologna is disgusting but you get the picture).

This week, however, queen bee Arianna Huffington, invited me to join her club.

(Oh. My. God. Me!? The Huffington Post!? It entailed a lot of weird dancing and victorious air-punching around our house)

My dreams are in many ways coming true and while I am forever grateful, watching my phone blow up with notifications has taught me a lot about success.

As beautiful as it is, it turns out that success can't make you happy.

Here's why and what to do about it.

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Why
When I first received that e-mail from Arianna, it was a million tiny explosions of bliss in every inch of my body.

"This is what success feels like," I thought. "I'm doing it. I've made it."

I was pretty sure I could've died happy in that moment, knowing my thousands of hours had officially paid off.

And yet, when the air-punching ended, when the kind words rolling in like sweet little nuggets throughout my day slowed to a halt, nothing had changed.

"That was it?" I wondered. "It's over?"

Like the day after Christmas, it was just me, cleaning up the mess that was left behind from the party.

And what's worse, I had completely missed the climactic moment -- the giddy joy in hitting "publish," the pride for years of dedication, the opportunity to be helpful, the gift of making any difference in just one single person's life -- because all I could see was my next post. And the next one. And the one after that. All of the things I should have done better. All of the other places I should be posting next. My exponentially growing to-do list.

There wasn't time to celebrate. Heck, there wasn't even time to sleep ("my site needs a makeover for this kind of exposure... I should be running Facebook ads immediately... My social media's a mess... I need a better book-keeping system... I need to get in TIME Magazine, pronto... how can I get on TED stage?")

Woah there. How easily I turned into a 3 a.m. business-building monster.

I see now that while important, success-chasing can be dangerous if we're not careful. Because there is no such thing as outward success. If living in one of the wealthiest cities in America has taught me anything it's that few successful people actually feel successful. If they do, it's only for a brief moment before their eye is on the next prize.

Because when we are trying to feel better about ourselves by achieving things externally, we're doomed to fail. Like a hamster spinning his tired, tired wheel, we will never actually get there. You will never be any better than you are today. No one's to-do list is ever actually done (wouldn't that be a concept? "I've completed all of the things now. ALL of the things."). No job title, salary, recognition, or "likes," will ever make you feel good enough. Only you can decide that you are good enough.

Only you can choose to be successful, and I've learned it has nothing to do with the figures in your bank account, the letters after your name, or the number of followers on your Twitter profile.

Maybe we need to promote ourselves first.

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How to Actually Feel Successful
When I was 22 years old, a near-death experience taught me that everything comes and goes in life, including us. You may think you are your accomplishments. Your titles. Your things. But how easily you could lose it all in an instant. Who would you be then?

You, I believe, are the only thing that would remain. The only valuable thing you have is little old you. The same "you" you've had since the day you were born. The same "you" you will leave with. The same "you" you've been so very hard on all of these years. (Haven't we all?)

The thing is, you don't "do" anything to become successful. Because the thing is, you were born successful. How could you possibly be any better? You are a miracle, simply because you exist.

Try to remember that, the next time you catch yourself turning into a "success-monster." (I know I will.)

And as for me, I'm going to go be successful.

And by successful, I mean: I'm unplugging and taking a week-long vacation to celebrate properly.

(Did I mention I'm on the Huffington Post!? [Sorry] More dancing! More air-punching!)

What have you forgotten to celebrate? Maybe you can join me this week.

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." -- Lao Tzu

Stephanie Seibel is a life and career coach for millennials wanting more. She specializes in helping Generation Y launch new paradigm careers that are creative, meaningful, and successful. Check out her website at redthreadcoaching.com, follow her on Twitter @RedThreadCoach, or check out her Inside-Out Work Transformation program here.