Be Brave Enough to Define Success on Your Own Terms
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life YOU’re proud to live.” ~ Anne Sweeney
Our maid who comes too help us keep the house in order, is one of the most successful people I know. She is economically poor but otherwise infinitely wealthy. She irradiates happiness and inner peace. I have never seen her in a bad mood. One day she told me that in the past she used to clean more houses and earn more money, but that feeling constantly overworked made her miserable, so she cut down on her cleaning gigs. Now, she has enough income to cover her unpretentious material needs and also enough spare time to enjoy her existence. In other words, she has found her own, personal definition of success and follows it conscientiously. She has the strength and the honesty towards herself to modify her way of life in such a way that she could fulfill her individual needs and wishes. She has taught me a great lesson.
I believe a lot of people fall into the trap of unquestioningly adopting the stereotypical definition of success society offers us: an ambitious career, a high income, the acquisition of status symbols such as big houses, flashy cars or expensive clothing, being “hip”. It is absolutely possible that for some individuals, one or more of these things really hold a promise of happiness. For some people, these may actually be good aims to pursue. However, we are all different, hence for many this cookie-cutter definition of success will not work and only be a source of frustration and bad decisions if they apply it to themselves.
I have become aware that, while material stability and a margin of financial mobility are important to me, I am unwilling to engage in activities that do not fulfill me in order to obtain more than that. My ambition to be someone else’s boss oscillates around zero. In terms of the stereotypical definition of success, I am not successful. I don’t work a 9 to 5 job that’s stable, I’m not required too wear fancy work clothing and uncomfortable shoes and I don’t have 7 meetings a day and chug 10 cups of coffee with a blackberry plastered to my ear… This used to drag me down before I realized that for the amazing variety of human expression, there was never supposed to be one single definition of success. It is a ludicrous, fallacious idea. So when I asked myself what is important for me, I saw that many of those things I already had, and those I still didn’t, I was actively pursuing. From this perspective, drawing a balance of my success in life brought forward a rather favorable result, showing me clearly I was traveling along a path of learning, meaningfulness, and love, and encouraging me to continue walking it. If money and prestige should ever come out of what I do, great, but they would only be the byproduct of a much greater treasure I will be harboring right in my heart.
Strive to be independent and find your own path! Find out which things are meaningful to you, and you alone. They don’t have to be high-flying or impressive. “Bringing on world peace” or “becoming a renowned intellectual” do not have to be among them. Instead, they can be as simple as “being close to nature” or “communicating with people”. Think of growing more than of accomplishing.