Would you say you were a success? Has your life so far been resoundingly unequivocally successful?
Whatever you answered, however much you feel you have succeeded (or not succeeded) in your life, there will be others who hold a very different view to you.
What images come to mind when you hear the word “success”?
This initial reaction will tell you much about what your own associations and definitions of success are.
Most of us will drastically underrate what we’ve done with our lives, how and what we’ve created, how this has affected the lives of other people and so on. So we don’t actually associate the word “success” with good or uplifting thoughts and feelings, but more likely see it as something that other people achieve, something that will forever be out of reach for us.
When it comes to the concept of “success”, there are three major misconceptions that, if you believe and follow, will mean that you will always feel unfulfilled and like you’re wasting your life.
1. You’re chasing someone else’s definition of success.
We are all so bombarded with media and advertising, brainwashing us into believe that we must look a certain way, wear certain clothes, use certain products, drive certain cars and have a certain size of house if we are to prove to ourselves and the world that we are successful.
Unfortunately this grand shared illusion means that we end up trying to keep up with our neighbours over things neither of us actually need or want in the first place. If you are constantly chasing someone else’s definition and version of what success is, and it doesn’t actually hold any meaning for you, even if you get there, you will always feel like something is missing. You’ll always feel: “So, this is success? Oh. But why am I still so unhappy?!”.
2. You see success as a fixed destination.
If we define success as having a specific set of material possessions or earning a certain income, or any other measurable target like this, we quite naturally expect that, when we do reach this fabled state of things, we will suddenly be instantly happy, feeling as we’ve finally arrived at the summit of the glorious mountain.
The trouble is, success is not a fixed destination. It’s not about what you accumulate, what you own. It’s more about the way you live your life, the person you are. You can be a millionaire and be a miserable, selfish, unkind and unhappy person, or someone with hardly any material wealth who’s content, at peace and enjoying every moment. Or vice versa. A successful life is about who you are and how you live, not what you buy or own or consume. It’s the beautiful flowers and breathtaking views all along the mountain path, not the peak itself.
3. You have no idea what success for you looks like.
You can work hard your whole life at trying to be successful, and achieve wonderful things that others only dream of. But if you don’t know yourself what success actually means for you, and how you’ll know when you are being successful, you’ll never feel satisfied.
You know yourself well enough to know what really makes you happy, most proud, what makes you feel most engaged with the world, most at peace, most alive. It’s these kind of feelings that indicate how successful you are. Get in tune with them, listen closely, and let them guide you to your own unique version of success.
Once we realise that “success” is unique for each of us, and it’s about finding what makes us most “us”, rather than competing in a game we never really asked to be a part of in the first place, we can start to truly move towards it.
Take some time to consider what you see as success in your life, and where you really want to be heading. Then take the first little step. You know what you need to do.
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