“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney
Success. The elusive rainbow that we chase our whole lives.
Every time we get close, it appears to fade into the distant horizon. After numerous futile attempts, we begin to wonder, will we ever get there? Is it a myth like the Holy Grail or the lost treasures of Atlantis?
Our desire to succeed is not to be blamed for our dilemma. In fact, it’s an integral part of our psyche. People experience dissatisfaction in their endless quest to reach success because they tend to direct their attention towards the outward manifestations of success instead of the inward.
We get hung up on the conventional constructs of success. In this digital age, it’s hard to avoid being exposed to the visual representations of success such as money, fame, status, beauty, etc. As a culture, we’ve become adept at portraying ourselves as successful, even if we’re miserable and unhappy in our lives.
It’s easy to be deluded by the illusion of success. It can cause us to alter our aspirations to match those promoted in the zeitgeist. In this way, we fall into the trap of chasing goals that aren’t authentic to us and our unique life path.
I grew up receiving mixed messages about what success entails. I was encouraged to get good grades and attend college to establish an independent career. But underneath it all, there were strong cultural expectations. I could sense that a woman in my culture could only reach the pinnacle of success if she got married and had kids, something that I don’t accept, nor aspire to.
Even though my defiance ruffles the feathers of a few people in my community, it’s given me the impetus to search within myself and define success on my own terms. While this traditional yardstick works for some people, it’s never been the case for me. And if I have to depart from convention, I need to find different metrics to guide my decisions and actions.
It’s critical that we develop the courage to challenge established standards, as each one of us has our own unique desires and dreams. Avoid focusing on what your friends and family think. They’ll never really know what will truly fulfil you. Only you know where you should be investing your time and energy.
Pay attention to how the idea of reaching specific goals makes you ‘feel’ rather than what it would ‘look’ like to others. This is a litmus test to check whether your realizations are coming from a shallow place of ego or from the realm of your wiser self, guided by your intrinsic values and a sense of meaning and purpose.
Doing the inner work to define success for yourself might seem intensive, but I can assure you that the end result of finding your own North Star is worth it.
Here are four reasons why creating your own definition of success will benefit you in the long run:
1. Your life will feel authentically yours: When you set your sights on goals that feel authentic to you, you’re on track to living your dream life, not someone else’s. Very often people set targets based on what their parents or peers suggest. Upon achieving those targets, they wonder why they don’t feel the sense of satisfaction they anticipated. What they should be doing instead is acting independently in exploring things that bring them joy and lasting fulfillment, while getting constructive feedback from those who support their individuality and drive for independence.
2. You’ll be more motivated to achieve your goals: Success doesn’t come easy, and you have to be willing to put in the work to see things through. Dealing with challenges and obstacles is hard enough, so why not go for the things that excite you? Your passions will make you naturally gravitate towards them, making the process feel effortless. Because you feel the importance of your dreams, on a visceral level, you’ll stay motivated through the ups and downs.
3. Things seem to magically align for you: Each of us has a unique purpose and calling that is specific to our soul path. When we align our definition of success with our calling and take appropriate action, the Universe begins to send us signs and synchronicities to confirm that we’re on the right path. It’s like finding the right combination to open a cosmic lock. Unlocking it acts as a magnet to the circumstances and people that will assist us in moving to the next levels of transformation.
4. You will maximize your potential and creative output: A success-driven mindset opens the portal to our creative potential. When we give ourselves the freedom to build a life based on what feels right for us, we feel free to express our creativity. For example, an adult who grew up hearing a parent tell them that there’s no scope for a career in art would be unlikely to channel their artistry compared to someone who was encouraged to explore their talent.
According to a study done by nurses who spent time with dying patients, the number one regret of the dying was wishing that they had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not what others expected of them. Besides being a somber reminder of the inevitable end, it’s also an inspiration to take hold of the wheel and steer our lives it in the direction that will bring us joy.
This is your life, and only you can make it as spectacular as possible!
All my best on your journey,
Reflection Question: How do the conventional ideas of success compare to your own definition of success? Does it reflect on your true self?