We’ve all grown up hearing the cookie-cutter version of what it means to be successful. Get a fancy job, make lots of money, have a beautiful house and a loving family. Consciously or not, we tend to hold our own success up to these benchmarks.
But while these achievements and milestones may be fulfilling to some, not everyone fits into this life plan. If you spend your life chasing someone else’s dreams, you may appear successful on the outside, but inside you’ll know you’re not fulfilled. Today, I’m exploring how to define your own version of success, so you can do away with comparisons and keep your eyes on your own paper.
First of all, it’s crucial to figure out what exactly success means to you. I mean literally sit your butt in a chair and think critically about it.
When have you felt most proud of yourself?
Everyone has those select memories throughout life when they felt most successful. For me, it was coming home after my first solo-backpacking trip through Latin America. I may not have looked “successful” with my worn out clothes and sunburnt face, but I felt independent, strong, and proud. Analyzing why this and other past accomplishments stood out in my memory helped me shape my own version of success and pushed me to pursue goals that fit that point of view.
Unlike what we’re told in school, success isn’t just a six-figure salary or GPA to achieve, but a framework for how to live.
It can mean different things in different aspects of your life. Maybe success, to you, means climbing the corporate ladder to be the first female CEO at your company. Or perhaps it means being the best darn stay at home mom and role model to your two kiddos that you can possibly be. It could even mean becoming independent enough to start your own business. Life is one giant “Choose Your Own Adventure” book — make sure the adventure you’re choosing is one that brings you joy and the feeling of accomplishment.
Sometimes your idea of success will evolve. And that’s a good thing. As you try different jobs, relationships and life paths, you’ll narrow down what drives you the most. You’ll realize some things you valued highly maybe aren’t as important to you anymore. You might find out that a certain lifestyle or achievement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And then you’ll be able to define your version of success even more explicitly.
It can be easy to slip into a pattern of making decisions based on other people’s expectations. It feels great to receive support and pride from your friends and family. But at the end of the day, only you are living your life. Not your parents, not your partner, not your friends.
Find out what it is that makes you happy. What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? What is it that makes you feel proud, accomplished and wildly successful? Chasing those dreams is what’s going to make you excel in life. And if anyone tries to make you feel bad for not falling into their version of success, feel free to remind them how you’re kicking butt in your own way.
If you’re having a hard time defining your own version of success, try answering these questions to do some deep thinking about what success means to you and how you can channel that energy into the rest of your life:
- What are some definitions of success that others have ingrained inside of you? Think in specifics — are there certain people (like parents, friends, etc), who have made you feel that in order to be successful, you need to follow a certain path?
- Describe that “successful path” that others have pushed onto you. Is this path something you’re interested in deep inside? Do you experience “flow” when you’re on this path?
- What would happen if you didn’t follow that “path of success”? Think critically. Where would you be? Would you be happy? How much money would you have?
- When was the last time you experienced a sense of “flow?” Flow is when you get so wrapped up in an activity that time passes freely and you fully enjoy the moment you’re in. What were you doing during that flow-like state?
- Now, think about the last time you truly felt successful, accomplished, and beaming with pride. What were you doing? How can you add more of that experience into the rest of your life?
- What is YOUR dream? Hush the voices that are trying to convince you that their version of success is your dream. Dig deep — what would make you feel accomplished and joyful if you could do it everyday?
- How will you feel when you accomplish your version of success? Imagine the moment and describe it in detail.
I highly recommend answering these questions on paper rather than half-heartedly answering them in your head. Not only will it force you to think more deeply about your answers, but you’ll have written proof of the things that bring you the strongest feeling of success and joy. We created a free workbook for you, where you can type in your answers on your computer or print it out and fill them in by hand.
Once you’re all finished, I highly recommend checking out our post, 5 Actionable Steps Toward Making Your Dreams a Reality, which will set you on a path toward accomplishing your goals.