Success – something we all talk about, something we all think we can define, but none of us quite know the way to achieve it. Many people are intimidated by success. Not because success is in itself intimidating, but rather that the possibility of not succeeding, is terrifying. We grow up with the idea that “when I’m older and I’m rich I’m going to….” but then we get to a point where we begin to question that naive optimism. Doubts begin to settle in the face of increasing pressure from society as others around us begin to “succeed” at different speeds than us. Many people start to compare themselves – asking what they are doing wrong, and why they are not where their peers are. Having goals and aspiring to them is great – I do that and I find that it really helps me maintain focus and emphasizes my purpose. But I know many people struggle with the idea that they don’t feel successful, and don’t know how to change that.
Allow me to share my humble opinion on how we perceive success, and why the definition you have in your head of what it means to be successful, is what’s actually holding you back.
Oxford’s dictionary defines “success” as such:
- The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
- The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.
- A person or thing that achieves desired aims, fame, status, etc.
While the first definition seems obvious, I find that as a generation we tend to associate our ideals of success more with the second and third definitions. Now for some people, achieving fame and wealth is the ultimate goal, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many people will work hard to reach that level and if that is what they want, then their personal definition of success is entirely validated. What I want to suggest, however, is an alternative way to achieve success in our lives that I hope will help many overcome the fear of failure, or the fear that without achieving fame, wealth, and social status one can not be successful.
I’d like to elaborate on the first definition from above. “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” This definition is a metric. It is a quantifiable measure of something we set out to do, that we either fail at, or succeed at. A perfectly acceptable and often times effective way of determining our achievements. The problem with this, however, is that when we frame our understanding of a “successful” life as a quantifiable measure, we limit our notion of happiness to “successful” or “unsuccessful”. By simply using the definition of success as the standard to which we hold ourselves, we don’t actually allow for the possibility of finding happiness in things that are not deemed by society, as successful. A key part of the definition is the word “purpose”. Accomplishing purpose is success – according to the definition. Makes sense, no? But how do we accomplish purpose when purpose is not quantifiable?
At this point, I’d like to introduce the concept of fulfillment. Oxford’s dictionary defines “fulfillment” as:
- The achievement of something desired, promised or predicted.
- Satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s potential.
Here lies an extremely subtle but crucial difference that can allow you to redefine how you view your life, and what you allow to determine your happiness. Let’s imagine for a moment that our idea of success was not to attain a certain salary, or live a particular lifestyle. Let’s assume that success is finding happiness in what we do, finding happiness in our lives and living with joy. Let’s imagine, that instead of chasing a quantifiable metric for happiness, we chase something desired, something that makes us happy and makes us feel fulfilled.
The culmination of this scenario is a lifestyle driven by chasing a feeling, not a metric. A feeling that we find when we do something that fulfills us. Something that we promise ourselves in our heart that we want, and need. Something our happiness depends on, not because it is deemed successful, but because we have fulfilled our desire. To truly reach a moment in your life where you are happy, which in my opinion is the ultimate success, you have to do things that fulfill you. You have to stop associating happiness to money, and money to success. Rather, tell yourself that you will chase fulfillment. Fall in love with what you do, so that even when things get harder and more challenging you are able to return to the feeling of fulfillment and relocate your happiness.
Falling in love with what you do for the rest of your life is success.
Let that sink in…
Now go find it.