Sure, your specific details might be a bit different to the woman next door to, but I bet that you share some key themes.
If you dig deep, what success means for most are things like this:
- Having a great job.
- Earning a good income.
- Having enough of the external trappings of what tends to be translated as meaning you’re doing well. So, an attractive partner, a lovely house, at least one car, kids at good schools, the latest Apple or Samsung gadgets…
- Being and looking busy. Let’s not leave that one off the list!
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting these things. Challenge is, however, that they’re all things that are more external than not.
These kind of things don’t always give us the felt experience of actually being successful. So long as we strive to define success on things that are outside of us, there will always be something that’s a little out of reach. There will always be the next promotion to go after. The classy car will age as soon as you buy it. A bigger house means the mortgage never gets paid off. The next generation of iPhone will always be dangled like a tantalizing carrot in front of you.
Meaning that you constantly give yourself the experience of not yet being quite good enough. Of success still just eluding you. Even if that’s far from true.
And it’s that embodied sense of success that we need in or to nurture us in a way that enables a real experience of happiness and well being.
The Positive Psychologists have noticed that the people who do well and are happy have a different view of success. It’s not that they don’t value the cars and the holidays and all these things. But they don’t define their personal worth through these things.
Rather, they have more of a deep, inner sense of how well they’re doing. For them, it’s more about how they’ve done versus their own inner measure of what success looks like. So, they might for example judge success as meaning that they have:
- Beaten some inner demons and propelled themselves to the next level of a sporting interest
- Been able to nurture a depth of feeling and trust in their key relationships
- Parented their children to be independent thinkers and to have integrity
- Created something off their own bat, whether it has made any money at all or not
- Stood apart from the crowd and uttered some unspeakable but vital truth
Whatever, the decision even to strive in that direction almost certainly came from a deep place in them.
When you redefine success for yourself from that more personal perspective, you feel strengthened by it, because it goes to the core of who you are.
And it’s that whole strengthening piece that enables the broadening and building of character that forms the basis for real happiness.
So, think about it. Look around your life. How do you define success right now? What shifts can you make to allow yourself more of a real, felt sense of success? I’d love to hear.