I find it interesting what society has decided is the definition of success. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame”, but what does success mean for you?
This definition of success is built from an ideal that is not necessarily our own. We are influenced by what we are taught in school, the media and pop culture. Parents certainly play a major role in developing the ideal that having a stable and successful career is the goal. It makes sense. They don’t want to see their children struggle to make their way in the world. But, any effort required to achieve your own vision of success, is better than the struggle to go after and try to maintain a life that you ultimately don’t want.
Whether you agree with Merriam-Webster or not (and some of you will and that’s ok too), most experts agree that you can’t achieve success, if you can’t define what success means to you.
I invite you to take the time to determine what is important to you, what you value. Maybe you want to help better the community. Maybe you want to work for yourself. Maybe you like waking up late and having long lunches. Maybe you want to be there to pick up your kids after school. At this point, it doesn’t matter what it is you want, just define it.
Defining your idea of success doesn’t have to be written in stone and don’t even worry at this point how to achieve this success. Just focus on the first step – let yourself daydream again. When was the last time you felt truly alive? Honestly. What were you doing? Who was around you? Once you take this first step you’ll find that new ideas or options will open up for you or maybe your idea of success shifts along the way. That’s OK, this is an important step toward building the life you really want.
In a Wall Street Journal interview, Richard Shell, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success”, said “Unfortunately, many Americans think of their careers as a race and feel that if they stop to change a tire in the pit, everybody will pass you by”.
But, if you don’t stop to take stock of who you are and what you really want, the race will be over before you know it without you having the opportunity to ask yourself whether you enjoyed it.
Keep in mind that success isn’t just about your career. You need to think about your personal life as well. Success at the end of the day is about happiness isn’t it? Even when we think about the original Merriam-Webster definition that includes achieving wealth, respect or fame, these things are ultimately meant to bring us happiness. But what is happiness? I think perhaps Mahatma Ghandi said it best, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
The best way to be successful is to start by finding out what makes you happy. Before you take action, start by asking yourself what you spend your time thinking about, what you believe in, what you get excited about (even if it’s as simple as a really yummy meal). That’s the starting point for going after your version of success and happiness.
How do you define success and happiness? Leave a comment in the comment section and let’s discuss.