Society has a way of embedding a perfect image of success into our minds in a very one-dimensional way. On billboards, in commercials, or in the lyrics of the latest Top 40 songs—society tells us how to dress, what to drive, where to live, and everything in between.
But gone are the days when success meant living the American Dream—a big house with a white picket fence, a stable, 9-to-5 job, being happily married with children, and a shiny, red, Mustang convertible.
Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, and to each their own. However, it is imperative not to let a world of expectations, from parents, teachers, friends, and especially society, define success for you.
I’m sure my parent’s vision of success for me isn’t exactly a spitting image of what I’m doing today. Ideally, after high school, I would have went straight to university, pursued a career in business, negotiated a good-looking salary, and have a large amount of disposable income in my savings account. Instead, after high school, I mingled around with a few jobs and internships, finished college, went to university about five years too late, pursued a degree in something less practical, and let’s just say, I’m in my twenties and still live at home.
I’m not saying you have to be a spiritual yoga devotee and leave everything to be a sage in India. Likewise, I’m saying you don’t have to be cruising around in the latest model of a Mercedes-Benz and reside in a chic condo on the shores of Miami. The lesson here is not to devalue responsibility and realism, but instead, not to fall victim to the pressures, expectations, and conventions of our consumer-based, materialistic society.
Here are three ways you can start defining success on your own terms:
- Know your passions. — If you haven’t figured that one out yet, know what makes you happy, fulfilled, and satisfied, which are essentially the same things. It’s a lot easier to design and orchestrate your own standards of success when you have the right foundation.
- Set goals. — Success and luck are best friends with design and planning. Being successful also means being S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
- Give up comparisons. — It’s very easy, and almost intrinsic for us to compare ourselves to each other. Maybe you know someone your age who has a better job, has their own place, or drives a nicer car than you do. For this, I always refer to one of my favourite Baz Luhrmann quotes, “Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
So, travel. Go back to school, even if you’re 40. Choose a paintbrush over a suitcase. Or choose the suitcase. Whichever spells out success for you best.
And more than likely, you will find that your definition of success will change. It will be refined with growth, sharpened with failure, polished with achievements, and perfected with time. In my previous post, I focused on how “The Road to Success is Never Straight”. Embrace the many avenues of success, and the process of being that much closer to it.
As for my parents, well, turns out they’re extremely happy for me. I gush about my current job, things I learn in school, people I meet, and new experiences. And you will, too, find that when you stop following everyone else’s expectations for you and start creating your own, eventually, others can’t help but to rejoice along with you.
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” — Anne Sweeney, President of Walt Disney
– Sozanny Chea
Executive Office Administration ‘12