What is Success?
I have heard it said that the industry we work in, defines success for us. For example, a teacher will only be seen as successful if she works long hours and is constantly planning, marking and ensuring all students make rapid progress. This idea of success is not within the control of the individual but rather is dictated to us. Is that truly success? Or has the water become a little bit muddy and we have become confused. If so, that means that we are aiming for success but hurtling towards exhaustion and burn out instead.
In this post, I am going to put it to you that we need to re-define our own version of success and put any industry and social definitions to one side. We are individuals and therefore our ideas of success should be too. Like most things I talk about, I believe this comes from our mindset. If we believe what others tell us we must do in order to become successful, then we will likely feel that we are somehow lacking or worse, feel that we have to be something we are not in order to prove ourselves. If, however, we have our own definition of success then we can ride the tide of other people’s beliefs and expectations knowing that we are doing the best we can.
The Feeling of Success
Before I continue, I think it important to discuss how we feel when we feel success. For some people, feeling success is knowing that we have outperformed our peers. These types of people (and I truly believe that we have all felt this at some point) will need exam results, grades etc to feel that they have succeeded. They will also constantly look for outside validation to continue feeling like they are successful. Have you ever had someone tell you that you achieved the top mark in a test? You got the highest grade? That you were the best out of all of the presentations? Then you know this feeling of success. The problem with this, is that it is not sustainable and sometimes, it can lead down a dark path. You start to resent other people when they outperform you and you are constantly looking for ways to validate your worth. It can also lead to exhaustion and burn out as you try harder and harder to earn that outside validation. Hand on heart, I know that I felt a lot like this growing up. Education doesn’t help as it is an institution which relies upon exams and grades. We can become confused and think that these things define us as individuals. That if we are not getting the grades we should, then we are somehow not succeeding.
The other feeling of success is much more internal and comes from within. This is when we have been training to run a race when all we really want to do is sit and watch movies and then the feeling of success when we have completed the race. It doesn’t matter about anyone else and where they came in the race. What is important is that we finished it. We had an obstacle in our life and instead of seeing it as dead end, we found a way to see it as challenge to be completed. This success does not rely on anyone else to tell us we did a good job, we know it. This type of success also allows us to feel joy for others when they succeed as we understand that they had their own obstacles to overcome. We are also less likely to burn out as we set the perimeters for what success looks like to us.
The Grey Area
I have made it sound like you are one or the other but it is completely possible to feel both kinds of success in different situations. It could be argued that we are more likely to feel like we need validation at work to feel successful but in our personal lives, we are more likely to experience the internal version of success. There might even exist varying degrees of either for each of us. What is important to realise is that we do have a choice about how to use this knowledge. We can continue as we are or we can start to define our version of success in all areas of our life. There is nothing wrong with outside validation but when it becomes the driving force for why we are doing things, then we have to stop and take a look at why that is so important to us.
The Way Forward
If you want to succeed and by this, I mean truly succeed for your own benefit, not to prove yourself to others then you could do the following:
- Think about the areas of your life you want to succeed in . If you are not sure, fill out the following grid in relation to how successful you feel in those areas. 1 feeling very unsuccessful and 10 being very successful. Look at the ones you gave the lowest scores to.
- Think about those areas you have highlighted. What would success look like to you in those areas? Be careful not to look at what other people would say or think here but how you would FEEL. What would it look like and feel like to you?
- Start to set out some goals. I tend to think big and then work backwards to smaller and smaller goals so I know where I eventually want to be but I also know what I need to be doing in the short term too.
- Think of the obstacles you may come across and how you might see them as challenges to overcome rather than dead ends. This could be something like ensuring you have a growth mindset so you see challenges as a way to learn something new. If you are not sure what growth mindset is then look up Carol S. Dweck and her book Mindset. Alternatively, you might need support from other people or resources to help you to overcome your obstacles.
- Get yourself a tribe. Find like minded people who are going to support you and inspire you when doubt comes a knocking.
If you want to join my tribe The Awesome Fear Fighters then click HERE
Remember, you are unique and worthy of success, whatever that looks like to you. You do not need outside validations to define you or tell you your worth. Be successful for you.
If you are interested in 1:1 support in finding your own version of success then contact me here for a FREE consultation call.