Success a new definition

Monday, December 31, 2018
Traditionally, the word 'success' has been associated with the trappings of financial wealth, expensive cars, designer clothes, corner offices and lavish holidays. It’s a definition of success epitomised by the phrase accredited to Malcolm Forbes ‘he who has the most toys wins.’

Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients who have plenty of ‘toys,’ who live a ‘successful lifestyle,’ but are often far from happy. Their ‘success is hollow,’ they ‘don’t feel fulfilled’, there ‘should be more to life,’ are phrases they utter.

With summer approaching, traditionally the time of year when we take annual holidays to rest and recharge, it is the perfect time to reflect upon our own definitions of success and to bring into our awareness what is truly important to us.

There is nothing wrong with seeking the good things in life. Financial success is pleasurable, it can bring security and it increases the choices available to us, but it is not a panacea.

The motivational factors that drive you will determine whether your career success and financial wealth will enhance your sense of joy and well-being, or merely give you a temporary high.

When we are motivated by fear, more will never be enough. More qualifications, more salary, more toys, more holidays, more power, will never make you feel fulfilled. More money and more stuff will never quash feelings of lack of worthiness.

If you believe that you will only feel successful when you know for sure that other people think you are successful, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of frustration and stress. You will search in vain externally for something that can only be found within.

An external, wealth-focused, fear-driven definition of success could be summarised in that phrase often used to describe the worst aspects of the Celtic Tiger years – buying stuff you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like.

You will resent other people’s success, because in your mind, success is a zero-sum game, there is only so much to go around.

You won’t fully appreciate your achievements or lifestyle because your mindset is consumed by the fear of losing everything, or not being able to keep up with the Jones. It’s the same fear that drives people to cross ethical and even legal boundaries to satisfy their flawed definition of success and to maintain the illusion of their ‘successful’ lifestyle.

Stress, exhaustion, striving but never arriving, feeling trapped in a vicious unfulfilling cycle is the price this definition of success demands. Does that feel like real success? Not to me.

So what’s an alternative definition of success?

As humans we are emotional beings, we feel emotions all the time. It makes sense that our definition of success should focus on the emotions we want to experience on a daily basis. Let’s call it – Emotional Success. What would the new definition of success feel like?

  • You are able to sleep soundly at night, free of worry and stress.
  • Ripe with curiosity, you devote time to discovering your passions and purpose in life.
  • You harness your passions and unique skills and forge a career that lights you up and that never feels like work.
  • You wake in the morning, refreshed and eager to start the day, full of possibility.
  • Your schedule reflects what is truly important to you.
  • You fully appreciate everything that is wonderful in your life on a daily basis.
  • You keep your family and friends close because you know that when all is said and done, relationships are where the true joy in life in found.
  • You appreciate yourself. You acknowledge that you are always doing your best (even when you mess up!) and because you value yourself, you treat your body with respect.
  • You know for sure that your self-worth has nothing to do with anyone or anything else, especially your net worth.
  • And you let your financial success be the bi-product of your emotional success.

Now that’s a definition of success that sits better with me!

The people I know who live this definition of success all differ from one another, but they are all uniquely themselves. Ironically, the one thing they do have in common is that they are not overly concerned with definitions or labels of success; they are too busy enjoying life.

James Sweetman is a Business & Personal Coach specialising in assisting candidates prepare for interview. He also facilitates training workshops on a range of topics including Time Management, Communication Skills, Staff Motivation & Leadership.

He is the author of four personal development books and his free ebook ‘How to Excel at Interviews’ can be downloaded from the ‘Interview Skills Coaching’ page on his website