How to Define Success on Your Own Terms
We spend a big part of our lives doing as we’re told. We’re learning from teachers, peers, books and the world....
We spend a big part of our lives doing as we’re told. We’re learning from teachers, peers, books and the world. This is called social conditioning. We can’t help it. We get rewarded and punished as children. Ultimately we want to feel safe, loved and like we belong. That follows us into adulthood. This is important to know as we look to define success on your own terms – what it means to us often takes shape from what we’re taught.
Go to school, find a partner, get a career (and not just any career). Then comes marriage, the house with picket fences, a dog, 2.4 children. Today, many of these milestones (especially the material ones) are out the window for a lot of people (who can afford a mortgage on a million-dollar home in the city!?).
Likewise, success changed over time. If we only focus on success as a monetary measure – or define our worth based on our professional achievements – we risk never finding satisfaction in what we do, or who we are.
Today, no one stays at one job for their lifetime. Houses in major cities are expensive, and there’s a palpable spiritual restlessness, a nagging voice that keeps on asking: “are you truly happy with the ‘success’ you have right now?”
For many, the answer is “no”. I know it was for me.
Until I was forced to awaken to the truth of my professional life: I was living someone else’s dream. I was making money but I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more out there for me.
What followed was a 10-year Odysseus-like trip back home – a journey, both physical and internal, that turned my social conditioning upside down. The journey required reflection, struggle, and for me to create my own version of success based on my own desires, rather than grasping for other people’s definitions.
Some things you have to figure out.
I want you to take a transformative journey through what success means to you. To define success on your own terms you must look at…
#1 Your Why
Why is success important to you and what will that look like? What will happen if you keep the same definition of success you’ve been taught, will it lead you down a happy road?
#2 Your Values
What beliefs are non-negotiable on your journey to success? Freedom from guilt? Freedom from your parents? Joy? Determination? More work hours? Do you sacrifice time with family? Your health? What do you value?
#3 Your Talents
Reflect on your talents and where you felt most successful. Was it problem-solving something no one else could? Was it getting creative? Are you a great speaker or researcher?
#4 What Brings You Joy
What truly made you happy and joyful the last time you felt successful?
The way you love to spend your time means knowing that time is the new currency you cannot buy. The past is gone and you only have now (you can’t control the future, it hasn’t even happened yet!). How are you spending your time?
Who you like to surround yourself with – we often hear about toxic behaviours, problematic friends but setting boundaries so you feel you can participate in healthy and reciprocal relationships means assessing who you surround yourself with, and clearing space if necessary.
What brings you rest, feeds your soul – when are you in the flow? When does happiness come easy to you? Who’s with you in those moments, and what are you doing?
Those are all clues into what success means to you, and how you can create it for yourself. Success is not a singular thing or material object. In fact, there’s not enough money in the world to buy your way into it.
True success is a way of life.
Michelle Obama said, “Success isn’t how much money you make but how much of a difference you make in people’s lives.” The first person this applies to is yourself.
How much difference are you making in YOUR life?
Then, there’s a bigger dimension.
We forget how important it is to place the individual within a community. Self-development and concepts like success can get individualistic. But you can apply your talents and skills towards a higher purpose. Be sure to open your eyes from the social conditioning of society, parents, and capitalism that tells you what you should do.
Question everything by being discerning and compassionate.
From all of this, you can truly start to design your own life. Like Ulysses in Homer’s epic story, venturing into a new land, without a home or identity and struggling to both establish one and avoid one at the same time.
Your identity and relationship with “success” can evolve on this journey.
You can have a past, but it doesn’t have to define your future.
Hi, I’m Murielle. I created the online course Soulful Productivity™, a 6-week program to redefine productivity and help you get from overwhelm to flow, and I have a private coaching practice where I help ambitious, multi-passionate creatives and entrepreneurs start, grow & scale businesses, and create their freedom lifestyle. PS: I love Instagram. Let’s connect!