Have you ever heard somebody being referred to as successful because of how much they earn, or how much they own, or how well known they are? I have – many times. In fact, I’ve spent much of my life aiming to be a success.
It wasn’t until recently that I paused in my relentless mission to reach the top to ask myself what success actually meant. What was it I was really aiming for? The conclusion I came to blew everything I’ve ever believed about life, success, money and happiness out of the water.
When can you ever sit back and say that you’ve made it?
There’s no such thing as a success story
I will never, ever be a success – and that’s not a bad thing. The reason I will never be a success is because (and here’s the amazing part) there’s no such thing as success. So, I could earn a lot of money – but at what point does that make me “a success”? A hundred thousand? A million? Ten? When do I stop and decide that I’ve succeeded?
Sure I could have a great career, but at which point am I a success? A blog that makes people happy? A magazine column? An editorial position? A novel? A bestselling novel? Ten bestselling novels?
I could have a great relationship, but when does that make me successful? After the first “I love you”? Marriage? Kids? Ten years? Twenty? Fifty??
People who believe in success also conveniently ignore the subtle nuances of life. What if I have a blazing row with my husband? Is my marriage suddenly less successful? What if I have a spell between jobs? What does that do to my success stats? What if I’m asset rich and cash poor? What if I lose it all?
Life is a journey, how can you ever say that you’ve really got there?
Am I successful yet?
So I came up with a different definition of success – my own definition. It’s inconclusive and totally malleable. I measure the success of each moment (and not my entire existence as a whole) by asking these sorts of questions instead:
“Was I true to myself?”
“Did I learn from that?”
“Am I being fair?”
“Am I prioritising my happiness?”
“Was I kind?”
When you start measuring your success as a learning, growing and big-hearted human being in each moment, instead of how much you’ve accumulated over a lifetime, life suddenly becomes a lot happier – you’ll probably achieve a hell of a lot more living with your heart than constantly trying to get more money, more stuff, more power.
So today’s little thought is – think about success and what it means – think about which definition is more important to you and see if it changes the way you look at and value yourself. You might be surprised!