If success is subjective, why do we place so much emphasis on society’s signifiers?

How are you defining success blog title cover

Where has your definition of success come from? Did you design it for yourself or did you default to what is seen to be successful by others?

Have you ever stopped long enough to consider what a successful life might look like to you?

When you get to the end of it all, how will you know that it was all worthwhile and that you have lived “successfully”?

There are so many ways in which we are encouraged to measure our success – number of properties, our education grades and professional certificates, the length of our relationships, whether we have brought up balanced children that still talk to us.

Do you have a mental checklist of criteria that you are consciously or unconsciously marking off before you dare to consider your life a success?

Maybe you don’t think about it at all and just go through the motions of each day, hoping for the best and pleased when you get to the end of it in one piece. If that is the case, I would invite you to consider a complete review!

We have all been reviewing a lot lately which is why this is the perfect time to be talking about it. When the world is transforming we might as well get on the bus and do our own transformation. It is time to align to what is in your heart, identify what you want to feel more of and figure out what you need to do, have or experience to create that feeling. Success will be right behind you, not ahead of you.

Success is a funny thing.

The seeking of it will never bring the feeling of it, nor will it bring it closer, nor will it bring more joy into your life. Success is not something you can buy, get or be given. I just needed to double check but to my knowledge it is still not available for delivery through Amazon. Yet so many people spend their life in pursuit of it – what exactly are you chasing? Tell me. What does it look like? I am reminded of Winnie-the-Pooh and his search for the Heffalump.

If you don’t know what it looks like and therefore you are not sure what you are chasing, then what are you doing?

Is this a good use of your time?

For all you know you might already have it. One thing is for sure, without a clear visual picture it won’t ever be found. It’s like trying to do a mammoth jigsaw puzzle without the box!

If we don’t take the time to define things for ourselves then invariably we will default to the definitions and delusions of others.

Instead of thinking and feeling for ourselves we will readily accept the solution placed before us, in the form of what other people think our success should look like. They must know more than us, after all.

How probable is that?

How probable is it that someone else, who is not you, would have a better idea about what would bring you feelings of success and happiness?

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest not probable at all.

Yet, “they” will always try to influence our life story. A good education, a good job, a partner and some offspring, a contributor to the community, an owned house and maybe a pet, healthy eating, exercise, plenty of water and sleep, a wardrobe of age appropriate clothing fit for purpose, where to be seen, who to be seen with; the list goes on.

Each one a definer. Each one a tool for comparison, a way to gauge where you fit into the hierarchy of societal success. Are you better than or worse than?

Really? Still? In 2020. Are you sure that this is what you want to subscribe to?

Are these the life rules you are going to play by?

It’s a tricky one. It can be lonely too.

I have often been told to “just play the game”; but I don’t like the game. So, even if it means I will have to be on a different court, field, or board playing by myself I would rather that than unhappily slot into a game where the rules seem not to suit my heart’s desire at all!

I remember when I first truly realised that I could define success on my own terms and not just do as I was told. The first time I realised that it really did not matter what my secondary school headteacher thought of my life choices and that my first boyfriend’s rather critical, overbearing mother also had no right to an opinion in my head. The one I have struggled most with is my parents, because obviously I love them and their opinion really does carry weight in my world, but, however hard it is to say out loud, the truth is their opinion should not influence how I see myself, how I feel about myself and the life I choose for myself. We can honour opinions without having to agree with them.

When push comes to shove, it is my life.

I will most probably be the only one that has seen all of it.

I am the only one responsible for it.

I will definitely be the only one able to retrospectively review it, at the end of it.

So, my definition will determine the success of it!

Success is subjective.

Success is intangible.

It is a feeling, a state of being.

You have to bring it to everything you do, not wait for it to arrive one day, to wake up to a life of success. It doesn’t work like that. Feelings only exist in the present, so stop looking for it in the future.

As it is intangible, I do not believe it can be measured through material wealth, or defined for that matter in material terms.

You do not need to “have it all” in order to be successful. Many people who have made it their life’s mission to get it all are miserable as sin. Many people deemed successful in terms of societal signifiers feel trapped, lost, and like they are failing daily at the fundamentals.

Success as it is perceived by others or by our ego may be measured in material gain, but the success that most of us desire is experienced only through the soul’s satisfaction. It is measured by the fullness of love and joy in our heart’s. It is a feeling experienced only when we are living in alignment with who we really are and when we are allowing that life to be fully and unapologetically expressed.

When we define success in terms of “having it all” we are still subscribing to an external definition, I mean who showed you what “it all” looked like?

Instagram? The Kardashians? Mark Zuckerberg?

Having it all is a myth. An illusion. Why would you want it all when plenty is more than adequate. Can you see the problems with these phrases, they are all so vague. They have no real meaning or grounding in reality.

When you take a moment to consider what success really means to you, you can create clarity, meaning and direction. It is more than okay if yours doesn’t look like anyone else’s, mine doesn’t! It is absolutely fine if it does not conform to the traditional model. You are not a failure if you choose to rent your entire life, or if you choose not to get married and have children, or if you choose to not to celebrate the commercialism of Christmas!

You have nothing to prove to anyone and you do not need the approval of others to live your successful life.

You are the only one responsible for your own happiness.

There is an interesting link there that is worth pointing out for the skim readers.

When we are still trying to prove a perception of success we are stuck in the need for approval. When we have an overactive need for approval then we also are constantly asking permission. When we seek permission, when stay small, always deferring to a greater authority, and we are more likely to remain locked into an external version of success. We get stuck in the game, playing by someone else’s rules.

Don’t stay stuck. Its not safe. Its suffocating.

The seeking of societal success will never bring happiness.

I have been pondering success on a few of my recent perambulations and the conclusion that I came to was that you have to find your own formula.

The first step is to recognise that success cannot be pursued; it is something you have to bring to everything you do, more like a mindset or an attitude.

It is definitely a feeling – crikey, I can conjure up the feeling everytime I remember a password or get my card pin right first time!

Success cannot be defined in the tangible because it is intangible so the closest we can get to clear definers is to look for the feeling we want to feel more of, invariably that will bring us to happiness. Or that is where it took me.

So, if a successful life is a happy life, what brings you happiness?

If your answer is still “lots of money”, I invite you to look behind the material definer for the need. Maybe money is representative of safety or freedom. If that is what will bring you greater happiness and therefore feelings of greater success then maybe there is a way they can be experienced right now in the present moment without the need to earn another penny.

When I look at my own success definers, some may cost money but they have nothing to do with money. Most of mine are not measurable in material terms but in terms of feelings and fulfilment – it may feel a bit wishy-washy to you; but it makes me feel good (which is usually the primary intention driving all of our behaviours).

  • I am feeling immensely useful.
  • I am leaving people feeling better for knowing me.
  • I am being kind, compassionate and living from love.
  • I am respected and visible.
  • I am feeling abundant in all areas of my life.
  • I am travelling to experience new people and places, learning constantly about the world.
  • I am living in a home that inspires and supports my growth.
  • I am spending my time with people who inspire me to be the best I can be in this lifetime.
  • I am supporting people that are doing great things in the world in a sustainable and responsible way.

I am all about learning, experiencing, living, exploring, innovating and sharing – I am well versed in creating change and in how fragile life is and how quickly it can be lost. I intend to engage in mine every day – not sometime in the future when I have “made enough money” – success, to me, is about service, contribution, meaning and growing.

Once I got really clear on what I wanted to feel and experience in my life I could turn my attention to how this might translate to success in my business. Your business needs to fuel your life.

My business model has a profit ceiling of £120,000 in its current form because I choose the freedom and flexibility of working entirely alone. I only work 9 months of the year and I travel for 3 months (last year I spent a month in Africa, India and Cornwall, this year was a bit of a bust on the travel front although I had Madagascar and Croatia planned!).

I only see clients 3 days per week, so I have time to write and create. I have time to invest in the people I care about and invest in myself.

This is the life I choose and the life I therefore create because it is important to me.

Although numbers are crucial to business, and bottomline can certainly affect your happiness, I have found that by building practically around my success statements, my business has grown steadily and significantly within the first three years of its current form.

You have to define success on your terms and then live it. You can always tweak it as you go. You can always change it as you grow.

Don’t let anyone tell you what success is – define it for yourself.

Personal Success. Professional Success. Business Success.

What do you aspire to create for yourself?

You are the only one responsible for your success so do it your way – there is no right way – there is however a right way for you and that is your way.

Be brave.

Have courage.

Find your formula.

It really doesn’t matter what society thinks – it matters what you think. It matters that the people who are around you believe in you and support you.

Those who truly love you, love you for all you have been, all you are , and all you will be.

When push comes to shove and it all comes to an end, the only person who needs to be at peace with the life you lived is you – make sure this is the case.

You only get one shot at life – live it your way.

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