What It REALLY Means To Be Successful (And How We Got It All Wrong)

Ever since Arianna Huffington’s eye-opening book Thrive was released, the country has been abuzz, trying to redefine our burnout-promoting, corporate-climbing view of success. And, while I’m grateful to Arianna for blowing the lid off this previously-swept-under-the-rug issue, I’ve got to be honest: we’re looking at success all wrong.

Success, like money or health, are just vehicles to get you where you want to be. The hiccup comes when we mistake the ride for the destination.

You can totally be a health nut to the point where you’ll never eat out at a restaurant, but if one of the major reasons you’re being healthy is to feel good enough to attend your grandson’s graduation, then you might want to hang around for the dinner party afterward.

Or you can strive for enough money to be able to buy a nice beach house for your family, but if you’re working too many hours to get down there for a weekend, then it seems like you’re missing the point.

The key here isn’t to redefine success for all of us — it’s to reclaim it for each of us. It’s to decide exactly what success is going to look like, feel like, taste like for you personally.

Because, if you don’t define success for yourself, you’re going to turn into society’s default of “money, power, and recognition.” And I’m tired of singing someone else’s tune when I’ve got my own voice. I played that game for a while; it wasn’t for me.

We can’t expect to be happy when we reach success if it was never what we wanted in the first place. Success doesn’t feel like success because we’re following someone else’s rules.

Maybe you’re the type of guy or gal who loves working 60 hours a week but then taking off a month in August. That could be success.

Or maybe you’d rather work from home and see your family while you crank away on your latest novel. Also success.

Or, better yet, what if you gave up that high-paying job because you were over the travel. Ding, ding, ding. Sounds like success to me.

The point is that there are no right or wrong answers. No judgment. We threw out societal norms long ago when we realized that eating a sub at midnight in your corner office constituted success.

Clearly, other people’s definitions aren’t working for us, so let’s make our own.

Here’s the thing about life: we only have one shot at it. We’ve only got one chance to build a life that’s going to make us happy.

We have every right to go for whatever we want: meaningful job, fame, fortune, glory, whatever. But, if we’re not happy in the process, it sounds a lot more like we’re doing it for someone else rather than for ourselves.

If success is just a vehicle to happiness, then it seems just a tad bit inefficient to get miserable on your way to success.

So let’s flip the equation. Let’s try something radical. Let’s take back control and actually define success for ourselves. Then, at least we know if we’re getting close or totally missing the mark.

It’s your life. You get to make the rules. You get to decide what’s going to make you happy.

And you get to use success to get you where you want to go.

So — where are you headed?

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