THE BLOG
04/14/2014 11:01 am ET Updated Jun 14, 2014

The Old Definition of Success Will Never Make You Truly Happy at Work

ONOKY - Eric Audras via Getty Images

The Huffington Post has started an important conversation about the metrics that we use to define success. It suggests that we need a "Third Metric" to redefine success beyond money and power.

Before I weigh in on this, though I do think it is a very good idea, I'd like to explore a phenomenon related to defining success: comparing ourselves to others particularly in terms of money and power.

We are all guilty of comparing our lives to others'. It probably started in pre-historic times with who had the best cave painting. When I was a kid growing up in the U.S., it was called "keeping up with the Joneses," whoever they were. Did anyone ever meet the "Joneses" -- deemed to be the epitome of success?

It's pretty easy to compare your level of success with that of others when the metrics are money and power. She has a better handbag, watch and shoes than I do; he lives in a much better neighborhood. He is a vice president and I'm a senior manager. Making comparisons? Easy-peasy.

But, the important question is how do these kinds of comparisons make you feel? Do you feel better or worse? Happy or not?

I would offer that most of us compare ourselves unfavorably to other people. So, if you do compare unfavorably, does this mean you're unsuccessful? Are you a failure?

Junior colleagues often ask for my advice about a problem they're having at work. The root cause is very often related to money or power. The problem manifests as a competition for the next position or the next big project and is cloaked by conflict and misery. The colleague is always frustrated and upset and feels powerless to change the situation.

But, to HuffPost's point, what if the dimensions of success were broader than just money and power?

What if you defined success by metrics you defined?

I know we all like to keep score, and I think that's fine for a race or a football game or Bingo. It's fun to win at something. But, when we compare our achievements to those of others to determine if we're successful then I think we've already lost, no matter whether the comparison is favorable or not.

This is especially true at work. It's great to be proud of getting a promotion or completing a big project on time or getting a nice raise -- and you should be proud of these accomplishments. But think about the things you are most proud of at work; are they all related to money or power? I would suggest that you can also be proud of participating on a high-performing team, coaching a junior employee or even of a colleague's success.

Finally, I would offer that no one who loves you would love you less because you're not a vice president. Think of the people you love; do you love them less when they wear an inexpensive watch?

Sign me up for the Third Metric -- I always knew good things come in three.