When people talk about balance, it’s very common the word success enters into the discussion. People often describe balance as feeling like they are successful at honoring their commitments. Yet, at the same time, many people believe it’s a tradeoff — that you can have either a successful life or a balanced life, but not both. This belief is simply not true.
It’s possible to have both success and balance because the desired outcomes are similar for most people: To create easy joy and meaningful engagement between the interconnected relationships, roles and responsibilities that make up life. As with balance, success means different things to different to people, and the definition changes over time as one’s life circumstances shift and evolve.
Success is personal, and each person has his or her own idea of what is desirable, acceptable and comfortable. There is no right or wrong idea of success. No television show, magazine, motivational speaker, or guru can tell you what success means for you. It is defined by you and you alone, because you are unique.
Like balance, success has many layers that are measured in different ways depending on various factors, like where you grew up in the world, who you grew up with and who you are today, in this moment.
Individual success is often described and measured by physical, emotional and spiritual elements. For example, it could be measured by someone’s size or how they look. It could be a feeling or state of being, such as enlightenment or Maslow’s concept of self-actualization.
Social success is commonly discussed and measured in terms of wealth, education and community status. Examples are where a person lives, where they went to school, the extent and value of their philanthropic efforts.
Many elements of social success are connected to cultural values and vary from country to country and house to house, as each culture and family honors different values. All of these variables makes it impossible to have a unified definition of social success.
And don’t forget the workplace and our professional lives, where we most commonly associate and glamorize ideas of success. Professional success is often defined and measured by recognition, as in a title, salary or level, the number of likes or followers on social media, or one’s level of power, respect and influence.
Many of these layers lend to the creation of a certain desired perception. The definition of success can include both how you want to be perceived by others and how you want to feel each morning when you wake up.
Think about what success means to you right now in this moment. What is your motivation for that — a feeling or a desired perception or both? For many, the meaning of success combines both: a feeling and a desired perception, and it’s super hard to decipher which comes first. Does perception drive feeling or does feeling drive perception? Many people who are perceived to be successful don’t necessarily feel successful. And others who feel successful wouldn’t traditionally be labeled as such. It’s all relative, and it follows the same logic as for balance because we are all unique.
Both how you want to feel and how you want to be perceived are part of your definitions of success and balance. Most people are more in touch with what it feels like to not have either balance or success than knowing when they are experiencing balance or feeling successful. Yet, the two are so closely intermingled, it’s hard to have one without the other.
The secret to living a successful and balanced life is nested within knowing what motivates you and having intentional conversations about that with the people that matter in your life.