What does success look like for you? Does it mean extreme wealth, nice cars, fancy holidays and a big house? Does it mean spending more time with your family while receiving accolades for the work you do on a daily basis?
The 8 year old version of me, hilariously enough, defined success as "having a nice car and going out for dinner at fancy restaurants". I legitimately still have the story I wrote to back that up. Well, if that was the case, I think my 8 year old self would be feeling quite fulfilled.
The problem with success though, and this notion of fulfillment, is that we all seem to have very different versions of this. Many of which stem from philosophers who influenced our society over many centuries. The main idea of success I keep finding is the constant need for acquiring more. This idea that we are never quite enough; more money, more material things, more opportunities, more friends…the list goes on. A large part of me doesn't consciously disagree with this. I, too, like the idea of continuing to acquire. In my mind, it means I'm not stagnant and that the universe is providing back to me for the work that I'm doing. But I had a thought, as I maneuver my way through these continual life lessons. Why do we have to define success by societal rules? If we had a blank slate and could redefine 'success', in this reality that we continually create, what would that look like? And if we were to redefine those pillars, would that change our capacity to achieve in a positive, or negative way?
The idea that success is achieved by external validation and gratification, in my mind, continues to create this large void of discontentment and unhappiness in our lives. By defining an external requirement for success, means we also define what it looks like to be ‘unsuccessful’. But not all paths lead towards these same versions of success.
Would we say that a mother in a rural village who has battled with poverty and war, but still managed to raise a healthy family and earn income to live, is unsuccessful? Would we say that a teenager who has overcome depression and anxiety, and re-engaged with school to graduate, is also on the negative side of the path? At the same time, do we really deem a corporate executive who shows the tendencies of a sociopath, holds poor relationships in and out of work, but has large material wealth, as being successful? I would be interested to know the general response from society if they were to break it down in their minds.
For me, I've come to realize that this notion of defining our lives with predetermined societal expectations of what 'success' and 'happiness' look like, is part of the main cause of today's unsettled and discontent people. We are all so determined to fulfill these needs, that we begin to do it at any cost. Disregarding the importance of relationships, of our environment, of our time, and pushing our way forward in a job we hate; all to earn more money, to live longer, to have more material things and to continue working in that job that makes us miserable! Really?
I've touched on the beauty of perception and the power of the past in previous blogs. These ideas are founded on the concept that we are the authors of our own story. We have the power, the imagination and the capacity to redefine what drives our life and perception, and ultimately shape our reality. So why does the definition of success have to be any different? We can always continue to grow - looking at new ways to further our journey and serve humanity. That doesn't change. But why not feel content with the success of what we have achieved so far, or continue to achieve on a daily basis relevant to your own story? Why are we so scared of celebrating what we have been capable of in our own journey, instead of feeling discontent with what we have yet to achieve based on other people's journey? Part of it seems to be human nature - objectively perceiving the world around us, formed by our peers. But once we know this, we have to realize that we have the power to change it.
You are the author of your own story and you have the power to shape a reality that matters. Be successful, and do it in every unique, authentic and incredibly personal way you can.