“Success means different things to different people.” As cliché as it sounds, it’s true.
Yet, we are taught to believe that the ultimate parameter of true success is how much we earn, how much money we have, and what we have to do to show it.
So many of us end up slogging our asses off just to earn more and more so that we can tell the world that we are doing well or are successful in what we do. Before we realise, a major chunk of our life has already gone and we are left with little or no mental, emotional, or physical bandwidth to enjoy that money we ended up making or the promotions we got.
I work with so many individuals who feel that they would like to earn more so that they can believe they are doing well professionally or are moving up the ladder of success, and the moment that does happen for them, they don’t think it’s worth celebrating. The following things end up happening:
>> either they are too burnt out to truly take that success in
>> they say it must have been a one-off thing—by luck or by chance
>> or they immediately start worrying about how to upscale so that they keep earning more—hence, living in constant worry, anxiety, and fear
I, too, have fallen prey to these faulty notions of success where, at one point, I became a workaholic, started doing way more than what my mind and body could handle, started comparing myself to others who were earning more (usual definition of success), started keeping tabs on my income and outflow of money obsessively, and eventually, reached a point where my body gave up. My already existing health issues assumed massive proportions, and I was burnt out and done with everything.
That, for me, was my reality check.
I was then forced to look at what I was doing with and to myself.
What was I chasing and why?
What did “earning money” mean to me?
And it was only when I put that in perspective for myself that I was able to settle down within myself and reconnect to what I felt was aligned with me.
Too often, we are told and made to believe that making more money equals success. While that may be one part of it, we aren’t often told, nor do we consider for ourselves, our own definition of success.
We are all a product of our beliefs at the end of the day. We have beliefs about everything, including how we want to show up into the world and what success and money mean to us.
We live by our own definitions.
Over time, I have come to realise that money is a necessity. It’s a basic need just like food, water, sex, and emotions. Having a certain amount of money is a means to a lot of ends. But whether it equates to success or not is up to us.
And when we believe that it is the only way to be successful and happy, we set ourselves up for a life that is disconnected and devoid of emotional, social, and physical intimacy with self and others. We become horses with blinders on. We keep running in one direction, with no destination in sight while passing life and its wonderful moments by.
Therefore, our definition of success needs to be more expansive and inclusive—one that looks at life in totality and not cuts out important parts of it.
My personal understanding and formula of success is: Health + Fulfillment + Creativity + Balance = Success. Money flows when I have these.
With the passage of time, I have come up with certain criteria that we all could keep in mind while creating our definition of success—one that goes beyond money.
1. Being able to enjoy and take care of one’s own mental, physical, and emotional health. What’s the point of so much running around, climbing so many ladders, loading our bank accounts if at the end of the day our only companions are anxiety for the next milestone, a tired body, and an exhausted mind?
2. Being able to spend time with loved ones and share our small victories and accomplishments with them. We have it all, yet no one to share it with…then what do we have at the end of the day?
3. Being able to enjoy what we create, accomplish, and earn for our own self without anxiety, guilt, or worry. It’s a product of our hard work, so who deserves it more than us?
4. Being successful also means being able to learn from the setbacks and turn them into wins for the next time. There are no failures (unless we ascribe that meaning to our situations and ourselves)—only lessons. The more we learn, the more we grow.
5. It’s about finding meaning and purpose in what we do instead of just doing it. Doing things because we “have to,” “must,” or “should” will only take us so far. It leaves us with more and more pressure and one day we’ll burst.
I feel that somewhere our definition of success needs to take into account our vision of a holistic life, which most of us are not even aware of. It needs to be aligned to our core values and needs so that we can truly enjoy what we earn at the end of the day. And what we earn may not be truckloads of money, but love, respect, satisfaction, growth, balance, a sense of contribution, and so much more.
Money itself can mean so many things to different people, just like success. Hence, it’s important for us to find our definition.
Success could mean being able to do so much more, so ask yourself, what does it mean to you?
And I’d love to know your insights!