Whenever I refer to “success”, I feel compelled to point out that I’m talking about whatever it means to you personally.
I say this because success doesn’t have to mean getting to the top of a career ladder or earning lots of money, as we have become somewhat programmed to believe. Success should be a personal expression of what makes you feel content and brings joy to your life.
Success can be defined as simply as turning another person’s frown into a smile, or just being able to walk outside and feel the wind in your face. But instead we allow ourselves to be influenced by a marketing narrative that primarily attributes the label of success to those who amass an abundance of material possessions and command the respect of others for their perceived greatness.
If we adhere to this definition, a person who has selflessly given their entire life to working for an orphanage is to be considered less successful than a millionaire property mogul. We see the former as a good person, as someone who is kind and compassionate, but not as successful as the latter.
This strange way of viewing success is harmful to your happiness, because when you compare your life to the gains of others, it is easy to find fault with your shortcomings and label yourself a failure. And even when you accomplish the level of acquisition that you thought would make you happy, your goal posts are suddenly moved further away by someone who has even more than you do.
This material measure of success we compete for is naïve too. The truth is that even those we perceive to be very successful suffer from the same afflictions as we do. Millionaire or average salary worker, no one escapes the wrath of stress, the difficulties of interpersonal relationships and the constant battle with one’s own mind.
But we are bamboozled by grandeur, by the misguided perception of a “fun party” we aren’t invited to. We believe that others are enjoying a successful life and we aren’t, and that we are therefore failing. Troubled in this way, we only see the surface clutter of the people we compare ourselves to, and have no idea of the emotional suffering they are experiencing.
We know this to be true by simply asking ourselves if we would perceive the same comparison if we were blind; if we couldn’t see the way a person looked, or the possessions they owned.
Don’t let your eyes fool you, for true success is not a parade of jewels or a party of over-indulgence. Don’t go through life measuring success with the external perception of your eyes. Instead, turn the search inwards for a moment and ask yourself what success means to you.
Forget the long-term thinking and outward projection. Forget careers, money, cars, houses, a big retirement pot and the ego driving you to be remembered for your greatness, and consider this: For every aspect of your life you want to improve, comparing yourself with others and setting expectations based on a movie-like ideology is causing you to miss out on the wonders of your life.
No matter how special, how grand, how expensive or how beautiful, you will never be content with anything if you don’t appreciate the small wins you achieve every day.
I’m talking about those little pieces of perfect success you choose to ignore while in awe of some greater life that someone else will always be living.
I’m talking about waking up in a warm, comfy bed, being able to walk, see and hear, or even just 2 of those 3 blessings.
I’m talking about having a mum, dad, brother or sister to speak to, having a best friend to rely on, having food on the table, having a child, being able to play with your cat or dog or being able to sit outdoors for a while.
I am talking about having an old yet pretty reliable car to go from A-B, having a job that doesn’t pay a fortune but that you quite enjoy, or even having a job you hate but at the same time having the potential to leave and find something you do.
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché “be grateful for what you have” before, but this is bigger than that.
These things might seem like givens, like self-entitlements, but on your road to those big goals in your life, don’t forget to fall in love with these significant successes you are blessed with every day. Because if you don’t learn how to nurture and love these nuggets of happiness in your life, you have little hope of feeling contentment when you reach the top of whatever mountain you are trying to climb.
There is no greater success than the one you are experiencing right now. Live it.