July 26, 2016

Re-defining Success Mindfully for a New Age.


A new age of collaboration, creativity and knowledge has replaced the industrial age. We need to create a more creative, mindful definition of success.

Experts have been trying to define the new age—without sounding new-age-y. It has been called the knowledge economy, the collaboration, shared or global economy, or the creative age. One thing most could agree on is that the industrial age is over.

The industrial age was defined by factory-style jobs where we showed up for work when expected, did a job, and then went home to sit and relax, possibly in front of lots of advertisements reminding us that we need more, so we need to keep working.

We also had similar patterns for learning: we showed up at school with the bell rang and learned the same curriculum people have been learning for a hundred years, so we could easily become another cog in the industrial society.

That is changing.

Some segments of society are changing faster than others. Many people are choosing to forge their own path to enjoy a life in line with their values. More corporations are choosing to be flexible to encourage collaboration, innovation and engagement. And schools are adding new learning methods and technologies to help kids adapt to the emerging world.

If the way we work and thrive has changed, why hasn’t the way we define success kept up?

Industrial age definitions sound like this:

I will be successful when I have $1,000,000 (pick a number).

I will be successful when I am earning $100,000 (again pick a number).

I will be successful…when I own a big house…a new car…sit in the corner office….surpass the Jones’s.

The industrial age was about production and consumerism. The industrial age achievement mindset and acquisition orientation came to us with the advent of factories. We had to learn to want more if the factories had to keep making more pants, more cars, more widgets. Factories would not stay open if we did not build in a demand desire into our economy. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover heralded the industrial age’s backstory for creating goals: “One want satisfied makes way for another…We have a boundless field before us; there are new wants that will make way endlessly for newer wants as fast as they can be satisfied…”

This goal-driven, acquisition mindset has become the story of our times creating more and more pull towards bigger and better. And we are now using resources to build all that stuff at such a rate that we need another planet to maintain it. It is imperative that we redefine what motivates us. We can’t continue to look outside of ourselves for our source of happiness.

Progress is slow, but we are moving away from the “want more” view of the world. Books like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up are helping us to see the world with new eyes. As Marcel Proust suggests, “The voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but of seeing with new eyes.”

All that stuff does not define us. It is time that our definition of success evolved to help us thrive in that new world.

Our next age definition of success starts where the industrial age finishes. We no longer define our success by our things, but by our feelings and state of being. And that state of being is independent from our bank account is. If we can move our definition of success away from the external, society driven wants and towards a mindful, joy-filled sense of being, we can create a feeling of success everyday. That does not mean that we are not striving. Not striving would put us right back into the machine.

When we create mindful definition of success, we can define it as what brings us happiness in this moment—and not at some future if-when date. For example, we can define success as when we have the freedom to choose to sit in the comfy chair by the window. We can experience that today. We can enjoy today and feel successful.

To create our own mindful definition of success, we first need to decide what our values are. Do we value freedom, family, love? For me, I value my family above all else. One of my definitions of success is that I feel successful when I am enjoying clean, fresh family meals with jubilant conversation. Select words that evoke an emotional pull.

This definition of success means that I will plan for healthy fresh meals. I will plan for family meals, I will not take appointments over the dinner hour, and I’ll leave work challenges outside so that we can enjoy each other’s company. I can feel successful for having done that.

What value can you put into your definition of success, so that you can enjoy success everyday?


Author: Nancy Steinhausen

Image: FreeImages.com/luis tapia

Apprentice Editor: Robert Busch; Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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