What is “success?” How do you define it? For some people “success” is making six figures. For others, “success” is having the time to do what they want. Many people are driven by the need to take care of their families. “Success” to these people may also come in many different forms, like providing a large house, or a nurturing environment, or a good education, etc.
Everybody has a different idea of what “success” is. And sometimes that definition changes as we grow and develop.
My own definition of “success” has certainly changed over time. When I was in high school, “success” was about getting good grades and getting accepted into the Naval Academy. During my time at Annapolis, it was about surviving and getting more than 3-4 hours sleep each night. As an officer in the Navy it was about doing the job to the best of my ability and maintaining the respect of my fellow officers and the men and women that I commanded. When I left the Navy, “success” was about getting a good job and making lots of money. After rising through the ranks to leadership positions in the corporate world I realized that “success” was less about money and authority, and more about having time to enjoy myself, and to be able to grow and develop personally. When I got married “success” was creating harmony in the home, and deepening the relationship with my wife. Now we have a child and my definition of “success” has changed once again – it’s about providing a safe and nurturing place for our child to grow.
Looking back at my life and how I have defined “success” has led me to believe that success is about purpose and priorities. When I say “purpose” I am talking about what drives me, or what I ultimately want out of life. Unlike my priorities, my purpose hasn’t really changed over time. Fundamentally, I want to be happy, content, challenged, fulfilled.
But as my life situation has changed the things that provide me happiness, contentment, fulfillment and challenge have also changed, either out of necessity or through personal reflection. As these things changed, my priorities also shifted so that I could achieve happiness, fulfillment, challenge and contentment.
I had to be flexible enough to let these changes inside me happen, or I would be chasing success at the expense of my ultimate purpose – to be fulfilled, happy, content and challenged.
My experience as a counselor and hypnotherapist tells me this is not unusual. People often revisit and change their priorities, and modify their ideas of success and failure as their lives change. For some, these changes in priorities happen over time. For others, a single, life-changing event may be the thing that causes them to change their priorities.
Recognizing life changing events, how they affect your priorities, and how these changes may effect your definition of success is vitally important to happiness and fulfillment.
Hanging on to a definition of success that isn’t related to, or even fights against, your true priorities and purpose always results in unhappiness, stress and even depression.
So again, how do you define success? Have you given it some real thought, lately?