So, if we know better, why do we not do what is best for us? One reason is because we get easily distracted. We fall prey to advertising. We envy what our neighbors have. We don't want to disappoint people.
But when it's part of our culture, it becomes harder to escape from it. I think this is one reason so many of us feel like we have to choose either career or family--we don't want to climb the corporate ladder for its own sake, but we do want or need to participate in the working world. When the system assumes that we're money-driven, it doesn't know how to accommodate those who aren't, and assumes the only alternative is to withdraw from work completely.
So maybe we need to account for all kinds of success, both individually and as a society. On an individual level, if we decide that family matters more than work, maybe we'll turn some time-sucking jobs down. Maybe we'll pursue things we feel called to do rather than pursuing the next step on the way to the top.
If we did this kind of measurement in the workplace, though, I think things would start to change for the better. If workplaces considered employees' health and job satisfaction as important a measure of success as their P & L sheets, maybe they'd be less likely to insist upon their way of doing things as the only way. Maybe they'd be more generous and more trusting. If they considered their employees' passions and helped them match their motivation to their jobs, the resulting employee engagement would improve their productivity and innovation. And if they measured their managers' commitment to work/life balance, I think they'd be surprised at how successful they would become.