In Search of Success — And Why Society’s Definition Is A Lie
Why do so many people think success is about financial details and the acquisition of ‘stuff’?
In our society today we are conditioned to believe that the word success means to have wealth and own a lot of stuff. To be profitable in business. To make a lot of cash and buy ALL THE THINGS.
This is a potentially very narrow view of this word and excludes a lot of us from feeling content with our lives and feeling proud of our contribution to society and the world around us.
I see so many people who feel the need to have lots of things, to furnish an ever more comfortable life, to buy nicer and nicer stuff, to have the very best of everything.
Let’s face it, our society is kinda set up that way.
We are taught to be consumers. Every, single, one of us.
But we can see that consuming does not equate happiness. It does not equal contentment. And this narrow definition of what it means to be successful does not help in our quest to be content with what we have.
We have cutthroat business owners who squash competition and small business owners with the leverage they have. We have buyouts and hostile takeovers. We have Forbes list of who earns extravagant and vulgar amounts of money they don’t need. And we have this AWFUL saying: there’s no friends in business.
If that isn’t the definition of sad, I’m not sure what is.
If we can redefine what we see as success, we can change how we feel about our place here on this earth as humans. We can begin to find value and meaning in our lives, however small our pay packet is.
MY DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
For me, success looks very different.
On a personal level, it’s being able to smile instantly and confidently as soon as a I catch a strangers eye, so I get to see the beauty of their surprised smile.
People don’t smile as much as they should. So when I get the chance to plant a smile on someone’s face and lighten their day, I feel a certain kind of warm-hearted success.
In my life, its reaching out to disadvantaged people and facilitating positive change in their lives.
It might be sitting down for a chat with the homeless guy who asked for some change. Give him the change, but give him some time and energy too. Leave him feeling seen, heard, worthy.
For those who live with mental illness, success might be getting out of bed everyday and going to work to earn money to support yourself.
Maybe its surviving trauma to come out the other side and being able to transcend your pain.
It could be the ability to make music that makes other people feel good. Or being proud of the work you do in whatever industry you’re in.
It could be making someone feel worthy, heard, seen, VALUED, like their contribution is meaningful and necessary. It might be making them feel like the world is a better place with them in it.
Maybe it’s finally getting an education after dropping out of high school all those years ago. Or maybe it’s getting that degree after battling your ass off with assignments and student living for years and years.
It could be visiting a nursing home and having a conversation with a very lonely person who never gets visits.
Maybe its growing your food and making simple meals for yourself and your friends. Seeing them smile while they are nourished by the food you cooked.
It could be having the ability to take care of your family. Raising children and providing from them is a huge task, and there are small successes in this journey EVERY SINGLE DAY.
And maybe, it’s doggedly pursuing the eternal goal of self enquiry and self-mastery. Getting to know yourself on a deep level. Asking yourself the hard questions, being honest with the answers and taking steps to be the very best possible version of you.
There isn’t a destination with success, it’s a journey.
HOW YOU CAN DEFINE YOUR OWN SUCCESS STANDARDS
With the barrage of advertising and negativity that gets flung at us from news outlets, television, social media and the internet, it’s super important that we cast a critical eye over it all and decide what is true and relevant for us personally.
What feels right? What feels good? What leaves you feeling anxious or unworthy? What feels hollow or false?
Instagram accounts of beautiful people with perfect lives? Car ads with gorgeous humans scorching off to luxurious destinations?
The ad that says your skin will be perfect with this special cream made from embryos and fruit acids and stem cells?
The idea that heaps of money means being happy and free? The idea that being beautiful makes life easy and amazing?
CALL BULLSHIT ON THAT NOISE!! Decide for yourself!!
Reconfigure what is truly, authentically, important for you. Consider fully what makes YOU feel good, what makes you feel fulfilled, what lights you up.
Ask yourself what is enough — if we consider what we have in relation to most other humans in impoverished countries, I would say we live wildly successful lives just based on where we live and what we have access to.
But ask yourself, what do you feel is a healthy level of achievement? What is important to you as an individual, without the pressure of society and its unrealistic expectations?
If we made up our own minds about what we thought success truly was instead of allowing the culture to dictate it to us, we would have the clarity and insight to realise that we are successful every day.
I will leave you with this timeless and beautiful quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that sums it up perfectly…