When Success No Longer Interests You

trees, homes, blue sky
People spend a lot of time trying to succeed.

They try to succeed at looking attractive.

They try to succeed at making money.

They try to succeed at winning arguments

They try to succeed at starting a family.

They try to succeed at maintaining a family.

Some even try to succeed at having the most pathetic life. I know that sounds odd, but sometimes, there are people who give up on one kind of success and then try to claim another. There are people who are legitimately succeeding at a pity-party life.

Well, I won't talk too much about the last one, and the overall point is that the drive to succeed is powerful. It has many forms. Yet there is a point when success no longer interests you, and this is a very interesting point.

Many Kinds of Success

Let's be clear. Success is a made-up idea, and the success I'm discussing is primarily social success. It is largely related to how other people respond to us in giving us resources, sex, emotional support, etc. Like all made-up ideas (which are most of our ideas), social success can be useful, but more often than not, it isn't. Usually, it's a big trap that constantly drives a person to do things in pursuit of success, but even if they are successful, then they have to continue to be successful or to find something else to be successful at. This trap of success can go on for most people's lives.

The most basic form of success is survival success. Being alive is a success. Continuing to maintain the resources to stay alive is survival success. Continuing the species is species survival success as is keeping your children alive. Clearly, these are very rudimentary forms of success, but they bear note. Very often, they are enmeshed with our other versions of social success, which is predominantly what I am talking about here today. When that happens, we think we are going to die if we don't have the latest fashionable shirt! haha

That may be an exaggeration, but if you look within, you'll see how surviving and social success are deeply intertwined in many ways.

However, there's a point where you realize the trap of trying to make more money, do another bake-sale to be a "good/successful" parent, have more sexual partners, start another business, help another client/student/patient, get a better looking body, get the latest technology, get another round of grant-funding for your non-profit, get another candidate elected to office, pass another piece of legislation, or whatever it is you are trying to succeed at. Phew. I'm exhausted just writing all that.

(Please take a moment to write down for yourself what you are trying to succeed at.)

When that moment really takes hold, suddenly, success no longer matters.

Succeeding at All of It

Because of the extensive lists people subconsciously carry around, succeeding at all of it is a rare phenomenon. Few people can succeed by all the made-up standards that they have. Fewer still do so and then don't immediately make new standards or get stuck in the trap of having to continually succeed. Yes, you made a million dollars yesterday, but even if you don't feel a need to now make 2 million dollars a day, how do you maintain this success?

However, once in awhile, someone realizes they've succeeded, and something drops out. Some level of attachment goes. On some level, they see the endless game of trying to succeed, and they no longer came play this game. For very successful people, this can be shocking. It's like:

"I have it all, but I don't want it anymore."


"I did it. I don't need to keep doing it again and again."

This can lead to an existential crisis or confusion. More often than not, people turn around to grasp back at the familiar, but from time to time the loss of attachment is so deep that they turn towards the spiritual path.

How to Deal with an Existential Crisis

Avoiding the "Nothing Matters" Trap

But this type of person is often very new to the spiritual path and has plenty of ego issues at work. One of the ego issues is a bizarre reversal. What I'm talking about is that people realize the futility of success and then their ego decides that everything is therefore irrelevant. They say:

"Well, nothing matters. Why do anything?"

Since some spiritual traditions use similar language, it sounds kind of spiritual, but this is where honesty and sincerity comes in. If a person really looks at what they are saying, they may find that the truth is this:

"I feel lost. I feel scared. I don't understand my existence without my old way of referencing life through the social success I was taught to believe was valuable. I don't know what to do, and that scares me even more."

So what do we actually see? We see that the "nothing matters" statement is a kind of intellectual pity-party. They're not crying their eyes out like someone who is more heart-centered; they're finding more ideas to hide from their emotions and the reality that they're now discovering.

To avoid this trap is to see what I am pointing towards. A little bit of sincere inner work is necessary, but if you ask yourself what you mean by "nothing matters," the truth will quickly be revealed as the ego issues at work are seen

The Path to Nowhere

Self-honesty and Unmasking Delusion

Success Strategies Fail in Spirituality

A person is now ready for serious inner work since success is no longer interesting to them, and this brings with it another trap. It is the trap of using old success strategies to succeed at spirituality.

Now, I want to be clear that some tools of successful people like diligence, discipline, showing up, honesty, and other things are important on the spiritual path. But some of the tools that allowed people to be socially successful in life only serve a limited purpose on the path to spiritual freedom. Some are useless, and some are counterproductive.

An example of a counterproductive tool is over-working. Sure, that got your start-up to the point of an IPO or it allowed you to simultaneously have a full-time career and be a single parent, but working so much is totally counterproductive to realizing oneness. Usually, it just exhausts a person by having them do useless stuff. They usually aren't working on the right issues anyway. Spiritual-workaholics often spin their wheels endlessly, but in today's modern society, workaholism is a successful strategy for a lot of things. 

This isn't a good thing, by the way.

So it can be quite unnerving to have these socially useful strategies now be utterly useless, and this pushes a person further towards the unknown.

6 Types of Spiritual-workaholics

The Fear of the Unknown

Unable to Turn Back

One of the more interesting things for those who find this doorway to the spiritual path is the difficulty in turning back. Sure, it is still possible. We live in a vast universe full of an uncountable number of possibilities. However, there's a quality of completion for those of you who have hit this point where you no longer have any interest in success. Maybe it happened because of how successful you were. Or maybe you just suddenly saw through that illusion in a profound way. Maybe you arrived to it another way. But the key thing here is that an attachment to success has dropped away, and it's in that spaciousness that there is now room for illumination and spiritual transformation.

For more thoughts and the paradoxical "success" people realize on the spiritual path, you can read these posts:

Arriving at Spirituality Through Success

6 Reasons People Succeed Spiritually


  1. Hey Jim, Thank you for explaining so clearly!
    I want to ask something, Recently I realized about my signs of spiritual awakening. I run my online business and have big dreams and ambitions for my life, But after realizing I've got to know that I no longer have any desire to run my business or to succeed. I really want to achieve my dreams but the process of awakening has changed me and I no longer like it.
    Could you recommend me anything about this?


Post a Comment