If you scroll through your social media or ask Google how to become (more) successful, you’ll notice that there’s no shortage of advice:
Tips on how to land a promotion;
How to make a six-figure income in 6 steps;
How to become a famous vlogger, etc…
Although the Internet and self-help literature are full of advice on success, do we really have a mutual agreement on what it means to be successful?
There are probably more than 7 billion people on this planet. It’s a colorful and versatile world. Very often, what’s right for me, might not be right for you and vice versa, which is why the common standards for success don’t necessarily apply to everyone.
Let’s redefine success. Let’s discover various viewpoints on this universally important phenomenon, gain insights, explore different perspectives, and engage in personal growth. Together.
The Traditional Viewpoint on Success
There’s no uniform definition of success.
The most common view is that being successful means having a successful business, landing a high-paying job, achieving a six or seven-figure yearly income, etc. Others prescribe to the view that family is what’s most important, so they see the quality of their family relationships (a good marriage, raising children) as an extension of their success in life.
Work and family are the two most common markers of success. But, these are the definitions society has created for us and, in this day and age, they are undergoing change.
More and more people are opening up and speaking up about how they find that success at work doesn’t make them feel fulfilled, while others are turning away from marriage, children, and the traditional family unit, and redefining what family life and, ultimately, happiness mean to them.
Does it mean that these people are banned from the successful club? Or is there something inherently wrong with imposing narrow social norms and rules?
Absolutely not. The modern view of success revolves around breaking stereotypes and going for a more individualized approach.
Perhaps you’re unhappy with a high-paying corporate nine-to-five job, but you’d be happy running a small business where you can get creative, make a difference in other people’s lives and achieve your full potential, even if that means you’ll be earning less.
Richard Branson, one of the most successful business magnates of today, says:
“Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”
Here is insight number one – success is not about how wealthy you are, but whether you’re happy or not.
One of the wealthiest women, Oprah Winfrey, defines success as “being used in the greater service to life”. She finds her happiness in contributing to making this world a better place.
A similar definition was given by the former US president, Barack Obama. Although he landed one of the highest positions a person can in their life, he considers himself successful for the change he could make in other people’s lives.
It seems that even those individuals who have achieved success in the traditional sense, impart a need to redefine the meaning of this term.
After all, our definition of success shouldn’t be so homogenous. Success is more about personal happiness, healthy relationships, acquiring certain personality traits, and growing as a human being.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll list what this new approach to success should be all about.
Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
Success is not linear. Often, it’s not even about the final outcome of our efforts, but about the process we need to go through, to achieve that outcome. But to be able to take this challenge in stride, a person needs to nurture a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is all about focusing on and learning from the experience. It’s about allowing ourselves to make mistakes and treating them as valuable lessons, not setbacks.
A lot of people get stuck in a fixed mindset, where they believe that their traits, intelligence, and overall success in life are predetermined. That’s why they don’t take risks and often perceive even minor failures as disasters.
Achieving a growth mindset means perceiving success as a matter of personal development, acquiring new skills, achieving meaningful relationships, and learning along the way.
Gratitude Approach vs Competitive Approach
The traditional view on being successful in business often implies unhealthy competitiveness, which ruins people’s relationships at work. In such scenarios, people achieve higher positions and salaries, but they lose a major source of happiness: their friends and allies.
While a certain level of healthy competitiveness will always exist in humans, things can easily get out of hand if you’re focused on the wrong things.
The gratitude approach in life and at work can change everything for the better.
Practicing gratitude in your communication with other people, or by keeping a gratitude journal, gives you a new and positive perspective on life. It reminds you to cherish the little things and helps you focus on the good in every situation.
Over the years, you’ve probably met your share of people who were ready to sacrifice their relationships with friends and/or colleagues for personal interests. This kind of attitude often culminates in regret and a feeling of being left alone on a desert island.
A major part of having a successful career is being a part of a group you love socializing with.
Regardless of where you are in life now: working in a company, running your own business, studying, starting a family, or traveling the world, surrounding yourself with people who challenge and inspire you and who you respect and admire is important for making that journey a successful one.
Also, make sure to always think twice about what you value more: solidarity with other people and nurturing healthy and supportive relationships, or paving the way to the “top”?
Living Your Life on Your Own Terms
We all grow up with certain ideas, affirmations and beliefs about what it means to be “successful”, “a good person”, “what’s right and what’s wrong”, and so on. Our family, as the first agent of socialization, school, society, and culture as a whole teach us the “do’s and don’ts” that we internalize as children and young adults and then practice in life.
However, many of these things turn out to be not the right fit for us. Just look at history: would the suffragette movement succeed at winning basic human rights for women if those women didn’t stop and notice that the values they grew up with and that society had imposed on them don’t comply with who they really are and what they believe in?
Ultimately, the goal is to stop listening to what “others” tell us to do and start listening to ourselves. What are your values? What gives you a sense of purpose in life? What is your calling? What brings harmony into your life? What motivates you to wake up every morning? What fuels you?
Stop listening to what others think is good for you, whether that’s chasing money, family life, or a respected career. Listen to your inner self and initiate your own life mission. We often realize that success is to feel good about yourself and go to bed every night with an eased mind. It’s about achieving balance in all core areas of life: relationship with ourselves, with other people, work satisfaction, and taking care of the world (humanitarian aspect).
Success can be measured in seemingly small, yet essential victories: standing up for yourself instead of suffering quietly, taking risks, changing your habits, overcoming challenges and obstacles, being persistent, doing things you enjoy, and, most importantly, staying a good person.
The bottom line is that success means a different thing to each and every one of us. Success is when you learn how to ski in your forties, or when you finally decide to break the ice and speak at a public event. It’s landing a high-paying job, but also achieving positive relationships with people at work. Success is to have a life-long friendship that can withstand distance and changes, but it’s also to end a toxic partnership.
What success is depends on our personal goals, and what we want to achieve in life. Ultimately, success is about freedom, flexibility, making the difference, staying true to yourself and living joyfully.
We’re not saying that money isn’t important. It sure is. But focusing on accumulating money usually ends up on a “lonely island”. Having enough money, on the other hand, gives you space and freedom to focus on the more important things in life, like people, spirituality, personal growth, and overcoming challenges.
If we were to say what success is, we would say to have freedom, harmony, purpose and love in your life. Love for yourself, your work, other people, and this beautiful planet. If you have these four elements, everything else will fall into place.