The first question that we need to unpack here is whether success is objective or subjective. Are there absolute criteria that can gauge whether a person is successful? Or is it up to us to individually determine what success means. In specific situations, like the scenarios I just mentioned, success is certainly an objective entity. But I’m not talking about success by someone else’s metrics in the siloed areas of your life. I’m talking about that overarching question of life success. What makes a successful person in full?
Objectively, we might think anyone who makes a lot of money, has status and influence, or is renowned should be considered successful (remember those Family Feud answers?). But there are countless examples of people within those parameters who aren’t happy and don’t feel very successful at all. You can spend years climbing a career ladder only to realize the view from the top is not what you wanted it to be. So maybe success is subjective after all. How do we manage when we have to define the metrics for our own success? Especially when it’s easy to let the objective version of success, stop us from realizing our own subjective version.
As Alain DeBotton so candidly puts it in his TED Talk, within minutes of entering a party, you encounter the famous, iconic question, “what do you do?” Depending on your answer to question, people are either incredibly delighted to see you, or look at their watch and make their excuses. Needless to say, it’s hard to not be fixated on money and status.
As much as you might try, you can’t be successful at everything at once. Any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on, where the element of loss is. For example, working in a job that flies you all over the world to prestigious conferences and events can be a marker of success, but only if you’re okay with not being able to settle down and consistently see the loved ones wherever you call home. This is why it’s crucial to figure out what’s important to YOU, and not work toward a version of success that belongs to your parents, your friends, your family, or society.
If working at Google is a marker of success for you, go for it! Just be aware of your motives. Do you want to work there just to impress people, or can you actually see yourself being fulfilled and making great strides for your career and life? If raising a family and being the homemaker is what success looks like for you, great! As long as you’re not doing it because of others’ expectations and only because it’ll make you feel accomplished. Catching my drift here? Take a hot second to outline your own goals and define success for yourself. Be the author of your own ambitions.
What does success look like to you? Let us know by commenting below!
And keep killin’ it!