Originally published in Nature & Health
The word ‘success’ can trigger all kinds of feelings and thoughts. If you did a survey asking people to define what it means, the reality is you would get various answers and comments. For most, how successful we feel is absolutely integrated into our identity and how we feel about ourselves. What’s fascinating is how there is no right answers. Success comes in many forms, and we all have a responsibility to understand that judging others on what we think success means is not helpful.
It’s called life. We are all in this thing called ‘life’ together and what a ride we are on! In the middle of the madness and mayhem, the peaks and troughs, the lessons and laughter, and the triumphs and tragedy is the complex you. By the time you are an adult, you are often an expert in how to judge yourself and others on almost everything. The beliefs and values you hold to be true started to evolve from the day you were born.
Success is personal. Success means different things at different times to each of us; it is highly personal. Some people never feel successful, even if other people deem them to be. Some people are constantly working towards creating the best version of life that they can imagine; always talking about when they will ‘get there’ like it’s a destination. Others are very clear about what they need to have and feel to claim success now. While there are also a few people who feel every day is a great day and they don’t need it to be more than that. Your view of success is like your fingerprint. It’s not the same as anyone else’s and goes with you everywhere you go. How you think about success is the lens you see through when making decisions every day, including the judgments you make about others.
The two I’s We’ve never had more access to information and inspiration about how to be successful than we have today, and there have likely been some strong influences in your life around how to define success. The media, your role models, family, friends, religious beliefs, education and life experiences all play a major role in how you deem whether someone has ‘made it’. We often project our own judgments and assumptions onto other people without realising we are even doing it and there are consequences! There is a link between success and happiness. When we invest energy in comparing ourselves to others, we can often feel a sense of failure. There are always people who are doing more and have more – that’s what social media platforms show us.
You decide As a success coach, I have conversations with people every day about what they need in their life to feel healthy, financially satisfied, happy and proud. Some people find it difficult to distinguish their own goals from those of their parents and/or friends. Many people have a strong desire to feel acknowledged by others or things so that they have evidence they are doing what they are meant to be doing. If you are someone who values loyalty, stability and security, your version of ‘smashing it out of the park’ is staying with the same organisation for 20 years. For a person who is driven by innovation and freedom, that sounds like a nightmare. The important point here is that you should consciously decide how you want to define success for yourself and you shouldn’t waste energy trying to apply that thinking to other people and their lives.
The four quadrants to you and success
1. The private you: your fears, dreams, secrets, insecurities, and hidden and untapped potential. Do you know what success really looks like for you?
2. The inner you: your values, beliefs, thinking, personality, habits, experiences and knowledge. Do you have clarity on what your success drivers are?
3. The public you: what others see, know, expect of you and feel about you. Do you spend too much time thinking about whether other people judge you? (And do you judge other people?)
4. The external you: the way you look, present yourself, interact, behave, decide, respond, react and behave with other people. This includes your voice, beliefs, heart, mind, vision, strengths and personal story. How are you using your uniqueness to create success?
We are all a work in progress. No other single human on this planet thinks, feels or looks the same as you. Your experiences, beliefs and values shape every judgment you make. What would be different if we all spent a little less time worrying about what others are doing and focused more on how to create the most resilient, happy and emotionally healthy life possible? My version of success might be fitting in a 20-minute walk tomorrow but yours might be training for a marathon. Let’s do it.