Success… we are all in pursuit of it.
The aggressively competitive entrepreneur, the motivated CEO, the busy mom, the high-achieving college student, the ordinary Joe and Jane are all actively on a journey to create some form of success.
Yet, for many people, success is very elusive, like a journey with no destination in sight. The media’s single-focused definition of what success looks and feels like has greatly contributed to its elusiveness.
This is as though to say, ‘You are not successful until you attain a certain yardstick, benchmark or criteria.’ But, success is such a subjective notion; you need your own definition of what it really means for you to be successful.
To get to that place of defining success on your own terms, it is imperative that you differentiate the myths from the truth.
Here are some of the most common myths about success:
Perhaps the biggest lie about success is that it is equal or synonymous with a person’s financial status. In a popularly cited study, researchers at Princeton University showed that money increased a person’s level of happiness up to a certain point i.e. once they reach the $75,000 income mark. Beyond this mark, any increases in the amount of monetary wealth did not impact on a person’s happiness in any significant way.
Do not get this wrong. Money and possessions are not inherently bad. However, thinking that the sole pursuit of wealth will define you as being successful or will bring you endless happiness is entirely mythical and could be disappointing.
So-called successful people such as celebrities, athletes, or entrepreneurs may share some common characteristics or habits but there is no one set of personality traits that define success.
Mainstream definitions attach personality traits such as extroverted, good-looking, socially likeable, bubbly, high IQ etc. to success. However, an individual’s personality does not necessarily define their level of success and does not considerably impact on their ability to attain success.
Personality traits are fleeting and subjective but an individual’s values are what truly enable them to attain certain achievements and therefore be perceived as being successful.
Have you ever had the thought, “I will be happy when such and such happens?” To a lot of people, success is a destination; a place where you arrive, take off your shoes, kick back and relax happily ever after. It was for me for many years, until I reached my “destination” and realised that it wasn’t the answer.
This definition of success is flawed because it keeps you from enjoying the journey and everything in between while you strive to reach a certain, imagined destination.
It is common for people who have worked so hard for ‘success’ to get to a point where they wonder ‘Is this it?’ This feeling of elusiveness and emptiness comes as a result of overlooking the simple, day to day miracles in a rush for more wealth, more possessions, more accomplishments.
The truth is, success is a journey. The ability to stop and smell the flowers, appreciate the small things in your life constitutes a fulfilling, well-lived, successful life.
At the other end of the spectrum is the belief that success is a bloody affair that entails giving up everything and fighting to no end to attain a certain goal.
Many people sacrifice their values, neglect their health, trample over their loved ones and go to great lengths, any lengths to achieve a certain version of success. Often, they end up with their ‘success’ but lose everything meaningful in their life.
Yes, the ethics of hard work, resilience, determination and commitment to specific goals are crucial to pushing our lives forward. But, it is not worthwhile to give up your values and neglect aspects of your life just to attain ‘success’.
Balance is absolutely necessary even as you work hard to accomplish your goals. After all, what worth is it to gain the world and lose yourself?
It is difficult not to think of success in very specific and limited ways. We are all socialized, over many years, to define and perceive success in terms of outwardly achievements, possessions and monetary wealth.
This narrow definition of success has led to a lot of suffering in the form of depression, low self-esteem, suicide, heightened greed, and violence as people strive to achieve “success”.
However, success is not universal and should not be defined as such. The possession of material wealth may be an important symbol of success to some, while spending more time with family could be defined as success to others.
The solution? Let go of all the so-called definitions of success set by other people and create your own definition of what constitutes success. It may be difficult at first to redefine success on your own terms but once you strip away the garb and veil, you will start to discover a more meaningful life that makes you feel truly successful.