Defining our own success involves purposefully choosing how we, and no-one else, will determine what success is and how we’ll know we’ve achieved it.
Nobody wants to be thought of as a loser, or a failure. However, in societies like ours, success is usually defined according to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
The fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect or fame
(power is also often used as an indicator)
Meaning that for many, this is exactly how they feel – a failure. There’s nothing wrong with having wealth etc., the problem arises when we start using it as the only measure by which we acknowledge and define our level of success.
Comparing Ourselves With Others
This can be done in a healthy way to motivate and spur us on to achieve more. But when the comparison is based solely on wealth, respect, fame or power it is more likely to become a stick to beat ourselves with as under achievers.
The media, in all its forms, perpetuates the view that these are the main indicators of success. Suggesting we should live in certain size homes, drive the newest car, go on exotic holidays and have high flying careers. The outward symbols of financial success, fame or power. So people learn not to esteem and value their gifts, skills and experience that contribute to society and this directly impacts on well-being; the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.
In not defining our own success we are at risk of becoming dissatisfied, unhappy and disappointed with our achievements. Failing to see them for what they are, measures of success. We can also lose our sense of purpose and identity as we strive instead to attain wealth, power and fame in order to be considered a success. This loss also has a detrimental impact on well-being as our values and authenticity can become eroded.
Defining Our Own Success
We have a choice. We can decide for ourselves how we define success. I personally like to use the broader definition
‘The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.’
There’s a true story of a man who was a street cleaner. The casual onlooker wouldn’t have described him as successful because he was doing low skilled job. But he was happy, loved his job and considered himself successful. Why? He said he knew what his purpose was, to serve and show love to people every day. As far as he was concerned his job allowed him to do this, practically and through having the opportunity to meet and talk to people. He was comfortable, healthy and happy, experiencing positive well-being.
The following helps when defining our own success
- Understanding our values
- Being clear of our purpose
- Confidence and self-esteem
When you define your own success—what it looks like, what’s happening and how you feel when you achieve it—you become empowered. You may decide you want wealth, respect, fame and power. The important thing is that you are clear that it is your choice. Whatever you choose, as you understand and move towards it, you will notice a positive benefit on your well-being. Any feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness are replaced by new ways of thinking and potentially working to achieve the success you want to see. You also start to notice what you’ve already accomplished, remembering that …
- Enabling others to fulfill their potential
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- Overcoming addiction
- Learning to forgive
- Achievements with study and lifelong learning
- Having the courage to keep following your dream
- Being the best version of yourself that you can be
To maintain the well-being benefits of defining our own success, once established our definition should be revisited occasionally. For, like our life and circumstances, we change and therefore how we’re defining success may need to change also.
I’ve included a link to an article called ‘How 9 incredibly successful people define success.’ You’ll notice they all reflect the individuals’ personality, values and experience. I encourage you to take some time yourself, reflect and purposefully choose how you, and no-one else, will determine what success is and how you’ll know you’ve achieved it.
Andréa Watts is a creative facilitator specialising in using the creativity and visualisation of collage to support individuals with personal development. She focuses on women going through transition, or who are ‘stuck in a rut’. Integrating Art Therapy, mindfulness and years of experience to help her clients uncover their true identity, enabling them to release their potential and fulfill personal goals. Connect with Andréa on her website