Do you need to reset the way you’ve been defining success?
For many of us, our definition of success has been influenced by our environment. If this definition is wrong for us, our achievements may feel hollow. Our lives may feel unsatisfying because we are chasing the wrong dreams. But, time is too precious to spend it pursuing unfulfilling goals.
If this sounds familiar to you, it is important to recalibrate your definition of success.
If you understand what success really means to you – you can make sure you are living, your version, of a meaningful life and happy life.
Environment shaping your definition of success
A lot of us grew up watching movies that demonstrate a classic prototype for success. We learn if we are heroes of our story – we will get the girl/boy, the money, the fame…
Many of us learn from our parents the importance of academic, financial and professional success.
Or, maybe we have learned through social norms that success is – partner, dog, house, family, money, promotions, cars, handbags…
As a result, external ideas of success are deeply ingrained within us. So much so, that we might not realize that they aren’t ours, they don’t align with who we are, or they don’t make us happy.
Comparison shaping your definition of success
Comparing ourselves with others can also affect our personal definitions of success.
In his book “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving a Fu*k”, Mark Manson tells the story of an individual whose personal definition of success was to sell more albums than his former band (who kicked him out). He (the lead singer of Megadeath) went on to sell 25 million albums worldwide. Unfortunately, he still considers himself a failure because he did not outsell his old band (Metallica – who has sold 180 million albums worldwide).
As this story illustrates – external definitions of success, such as keeping up with the Joneses (or Metallica) – take our focus away from our achievements and their importance.
What is your personal definition of success?
For many of us, understanding our personal definition of success may require us to take a step back and reflect on what is truly important to us. Below are some questions that can help you do this.
If this seems hard – don’t worry. People can spend years trying to answer some of these questions (it doesn’t help that your answers can change over time too).
The idea of this exercise is to increase your self-awareness, so you can recalibrate your definition of success, from an internal source.
What brings meaning to your life?
For the purposes of this exercise, define “meaning” in your life, as the collection of values and things that bring you a sense of fulfillment and contentment.
Understanding what brings meaning to your life, and therefore what is important to you, allows you to identify an aligned definition of success.
For example, if quality family time brings you meaning – then promotion at work that requires long hours in the office – will not be an aligned definition of success for you.
What gives you a sense of purpose?
For this exercise, consider your “purpose”, as the actions you take that embody meaning for you.
These could be small actions like going to the gym. Or, maybe the pursuit of your life’s purpose (which we can describe as your life’s direction that encompasses your meaning, skill set and preferences).
Sir Ken Robinson in “Finding your Element”, describes your life’s purpose or “Element” as “doing something that feels so completely natural to you, that resonants so strongly with you, that you feel this is who you really are”.
Discovering your purpose or element will allow you to strive for related goals and successes that will be personally fulfilling and rewarding.
We have heard the story, many times, of people that have left their dissatisfying “successful” corporate careers to follow their passions and dreams. They then become satisfied and joyful hobby farmers, wedding photographers, Life Goals Mag founders etc…
However, purpose can also be found in everyday activities. Yoga may feel purposeful to you. So, you may define a daily yoga practice as success in your life.
What makes you happy?
As significant as meaning and purpose are – we mustn’t forget the importance of happiness for our overall well-being.
In his book, “Happiness by Design” Paul Dolan explains that our lives require a balance between purpose and pleasure (ie. happiness) that suits us.
Activities that bring us purpose – may not be pleasurable (hello – exercise). Therefore, unless your definition of success is to live a purely purposeful life, you will need to ensure that you have the right balance of purpose and happiness.
I know, for myself, any definition of a successful life will include plenty of quality time on the couch watching movies.
Something to consider when defining success for yourself – is the times in your life you have truly felt successful.
Have there been achievements in your life that other people have celebrated? But within yourself, they didn’t really resonate?
Ask yourself – when have you really felt proud?
For me, it is important when I ask myself this question, to not compare myself with other people. Having a small number of people across the world read my blog makes me feel proud. Yes, it’s nothing like the thousands of readers other bloggers get (comparison will make me feel discouraged). But, when I do the right thing and just focus on my achievements. I really do feel successful.
Do you need to recalibrate your definition of success?
Asking yourself these questions will help you to reflect and create a personalized definition of success. This definition will encompass what is important to you and ignore expectations and influences from external sources.
Recalibrating your personal definition may take some work to understand yourself and what you need. It might also take confidence if others don’t agree with your path. But the results will be worth it when you are living a meaningful and balanced life, in pursuit of fulfilling achievements. And, you can feel like a success, every day.