A couple of years ago I met a lady from France who was visiting India. It was a journey in search of her roots as her mother is a third generation Indian from Mauritius and like most Indians outside the country she preserves, cherishes and values her Indianness and takes great pride in our culture. This girl had just been through a personal tragedy which had led her into a phase of introspection. This trip was a quest in search of answers to some of her personal questions and re-evaluation of her priorities. Having heard her mother talk about the values and ideals central to Hinduism and the principles that governed a Hindu ways of life, she was keen to find out if business gurus and corporates in India had evolved standards and practices rooted in this culture. According to her, western business models were rooted in greed and lacked principles and their only standard was success by all means at all times. Having headed a company herself, she felt that it was a defective model where success did not always guarantee happiness. She had been highly successful in her career but that hadn’t given her true happiness, she said.
In the short time she was here, we had many enjoyable conversations comparing the western and Indian ways of life. She mentioned a report with the finding that nearly one in four French people are on tranquillizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics or other mood-altering prescription drugs. I found this disturbing but I was a little confused when she attributed it to the loss of belief in God. She seemed to suggest that Faith could be an effective substitute for tranquillizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics and I found it difficult to make the connection.

I finally understood her point only a few days ago when I heard this lecture by eminent author Alain de botton:

in the middle ages, in England, when you met a very poor person, that person would be described as an "unfortunate." Literally, somebody who had not been blessed by fortune, an unfortunate. Nowadays, particularly in the United States, if you meet someone at the bottom of society, they may, unkindly, be described as a "loser." There is a real difference between an unfortunate and a loser. And that shows 400 years of evolution in society, and our belief in who is responsible for our lives. It's no longer the gods, it's us. We're in the driving seat.
That's exhilarating if you're doing well, and very crushing if you're not. It leads, in the worst cases, in the analysis of a sociologist like Emil Durkheim, it leads to increased rates of suicide. There are more suicides in developed individualistic countries than in any other part of the world. And some of the reason for that is that people take what happens to them extremely personally. They own their success. But they also own their failure.

Is that why people need God? As someone who has the power we lack – to make things alright, to work miracles, to make possible whatever seems impossible to us? So that we can still have hope even when Reason tells us that nothing more can be done to make the situation better? Is that why it was necessary to invent Him in the first place? To help us handle our success and failure with equanimity by shifting responsibility?
Today we have a lot more in terms of possessions, comforts and avenues to be happy and yet people are more discontented and unhappy than the earlier generations. Success and happiness seem like mirages which people keep chasing until eventually they die unhappy. Is God the answer? What about those who have outgrown belief in God that it is impossible to go back? In matters of faith, once doubt creeps in however slight, it is never again possible to go back to unquestioning belief.

Botton’s answer is different. He argues that we simply need to re-evaluate our definitions of success and failure.

And one of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. If I said to you that there is somebody behind the screen who is very very successful, certain ideas would immediately come to mind. You would think that person might have made a lot of money, achieved renown in some field. ...
Here's an insight that I've had about success. You can't be successful at everything. We hear a lot of talk about work-life balance. Nonsense. You can't have it all. You can't. So any vision of success has to admit what it's losing out on, where the element of loss is. And I think any wise life will accept as I say, that there is going to be an element where we are not succeeding.
And the thing about a successful life, is a lot of the time, our ideas of what it would mean to live successfully, are not our own...
And we also suck in messages from everything from the television, to advertising, to marketing, etc. These are hugely powerful forces That define what we want, and how we view ourselves. When we're told that banking is a very respectable profession a lot of us want to go into banking. When banking is no longer so respectable, we lose interest in banking. We are highly open to suggestion.
So what I want to argue for, is not that we should give up on our ideas of success. But we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas. And make sure that we own them, that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it's bad enough, not getting what you want. But it's even worse to have an idea of what it is you want, and find out at the end of a journey, that it isn't, in fact, what you wanted all along.

I found it a truly inspiring and insightful lecture. Things they don't teach in the universities but ought to.Ideas that young people should consider before they get sucked into the rat race. Perhaps they could then find a way to be successful and happy as their struggle would not be to meet someone else’s definition of success but their own.