What Does Success Mean to You?

Ah success. It’s a word you hear a lot about in the world. Maybe it’s someone bragging about how successful their child has become, or the President talking about how successful and prosperous the country is. Maybe it’s a standard that you’re currently judging yourself on. I know that the dictionary defines success as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.” There are a few other definitions below that, but I think we all know that for each person, success varies a bit.

For some, being successful is linked to their job. Are they moving up quickly in the company, have they increased their salary, are they on track to make partner, so on and so forth. Those are definitely great markers of success, but they’re certainly not the only ones. So often I see people who feel unsuccessful in life. Perhaps they’re not in the career they wanted, or haven’t even been able to start a career yet. Maybe they’ve hit middle age and realized that they never pursued their dreams and now worry that they can’t. Or maybe they see everyone else at a different point in their lives, despite being the same age, and wonder if they were unsuccessful in this crazy game called life.

That’s the thing about success. As easily as it is defined, we all have our own ideas of what it is to be successful or unsuccessful. Which also means that we place all this pressure on ourselves to meet our goals, and if we don’t we rag on ourselves. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, or if you did all the right things, you still don’t always meet your goals or get what you wanted. Life has a way of changing things up for us, and changing the path to success. But just because you’re not CEO of a major company, like you had planned out in your ten year future life plan, doesn’t mean that you’re not successful. You can be successful in other ways, achieve goals that you didn’t even know you had. A friend of mine is unable to find a job in her field, yet she’s planning her wedding. I think she’s pretty successful, she found love and is really happy with her soon to be husband. She may not have success in the traditional sense of the word, but I think she has it in a different way. A woman who is in medical debt but beat cancer, I’d say she’s successful. To some, being in debt isn’t a marker of success, but kicking cancer’s butt, that’s definitely a win for her, and for those that care about her.

So before you go and write yourself off as unsuccessful, take a look at your life. If you’re not in the career you planned, that doesn’t mean anything. Maybe you changed gears and opted not to finish grad school, but found an amazing job that you love. Just because you didn’t finish the degree doesn’t mean you’re not successful. You just found success in another area. Sometimes, success doesn’t always come in the ways we think it should, but I promise you, it is there, if you just know where to look.

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