For maximum effectiveness, be sure to download the FREE Defining Success Worksheet that accompanies this post.
‘When I was your age, I started working as soon as I could, so I could afford a house for your Mum and I, and so we could start, you know, planning your entry to the world...’
I cringed as thoughts of my parents together flashed into my mind, but was gladly interrupted as he continued on another of his regular rants.
‘Take a look around. All that we have didn’t grow on trees you know. At some point you’ve gotta suck it up and work. You want that new bike? How about a trip to Europe? That car of yours will need a new set of tires soon enough. You can’t do anything without money, especially when you hit retirement. You can’t expect to become an overnight success story, so you better hop to it and find something that pays well so you can start saving!’
I wasn’t totally convinced, but I did want a new car, and I figured I’d want a house sometime in the future to call my own like everyone else had. ‘Okay.’ I said. ‘What do you think I should do…’
I’m sure you can imagine how the rest goes. This story, one not too different from my own, is a familiar tale told by parents to their children when the time comes to forge their own path in the world. The confused adolescent asking their wise parent for their opinion of the best way to go about life. Unfortunately the opinion is likely biased, since the last few generations have been geared to measure personal and professional success in terms of how much money you make, and what you can buy to raise your standard of living.
If that age-old definition of success - achieving the ‘American Dream’ was so correct, then why are we seeing an increase in crime, suicide, and depression in the developed world. Could there be a flaw in this popular adage?
‘Son, have you thought much about your future? I mean, what do you want to do when you leave school?’
I pondered this question. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about it all that much. My time was stretched finely between sport, friends, and school work as it was. Seeing the look of puzzlement upon my face, he sighed and continued.
Success isn’t measured in square feet or horsepower
Around the time of the Industrial Revolution of the 1920’s, working life underwent a massive transformation from ‘working for survival’ to ‘working for the finer things in life’. The standard of living in the western world jumped miles ahead thanks to the creation of modern machines and the 40 hour workweek. Both of which afforded us leisure time and material wealth which we could spend our money on.
As people discovered the convenience and exclusivity that having money and materials afforded, the more they wanted them. The desire to have this ‘material wealth’ grew to such an extent that the global population came to value money and materials above previous stronghold priorities such as family, community, and a sense of fulfilment in the simple things. As the value of money and materials went global, it was natural for the idea of being a ‘success' to become attached.
That was then.
As time passes and our material objects age, we realise that defining success by how much we can impress others with our belongings, is fast becoming out dated. We’re becoming conscious of the continuous flow of energy away from us that our ‘stuff’ demands. In response, concepts such as minimalism are taking hold, and the age-old ‘dream’ of having a big house, fancy car, and a tribe of kids is being questioned on its validity.
Freedom of destiny and the ability to live and work on your own terms is the new, upcoming currency of the successful in the 21st Century, not how many horses are under the hood.
Fancy cars and luxurious houses mean nothing for the Cause Crusader, since...
If you’re like me (and most of the world), you’ve tried external validation as a means of approval, and a measure of your success. Our desire to seek approval of those closest to us is a common mistake made during our younger years. In the story at the beginning of this post, the young boy asks his father not only for guidance in choosing a path to take, but also uses this answer as a measure of success that can win his approval. Doing well and accomplishing his father's wishes would, in his eyes, surely lead to approval and ever lasting love.
So often is the case that we seek approval from others to find our way in the world. With absence of our own individual sense of success and personal fulfilment, it’s easy to see why we turn to those who ‘know us best’ - family and friends - and seek their opinions. Therein starts the destructive habit of external validation as a measure of personal success.
Success isn’t about proving yourself to others
Accomplishments are overrated
It’s easy to feel that becoming a ‘success’ calls for measurable achievements. Society has geared us to aim for things that are tangible - possessions, money, and hierarchy being most common. But what is the meaning of these when you’ve had a life of frustration, anger, and resentment pursuing their attainment?
It’s true that many of us gauge success based on accomplishments in our work, but it doesn’t need to be measured on our ability to reach a senior position, or afford a luxury home. As the reasons why we work change, we are realising that to be a success is more than impressing others with fancy cars and titles. Success can be whatever we want it to be.
Maybe success is being loved, having a child, or simply living a life on the beach where you can swim in the waves every day.Money, material wealth, or stature, needn’t be the sole measures in our lives (although it can be if you wish).
Success is not something to sit in a trophy room for all to admire, and for you to gloat about come the next Sunday barbecue, it’s an ever changing feeling of fulfilment that need only be relevant to its owner.
Basing your success on accomplishments and expectations of others is a fools errand, and will surely have you chasing your tail until you wake up and take ownership of your destiny. Freedom, and a life lived on your own terms, comes to those who are courageous enough to define what gives them a true feeling of content and fulfilment, and allows them to live a life of love.
Not sure where to start? I've developed a Defining Success Worksheet which you can download for free, which will guide you through the process. Make sure you get your hands on it to kickstart your progress!
Success is up to you. Your freedom depends on it
What are your next actions? Will you sit on the sidelines and leave your success at the whim of others, or will you become a master and own it, paving a future of passionate work and life lived on your own terms?
It’s up to you.
So I’m curious to know, what does success mean to you, and how is your current path preventing you from living life on your terms?
Leave a comment below.
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About the Author
Hi, I'm Jason, founder of Kickstart a Cause, teaching you to unlock your true potential and create a life you were born to live. When I'm not inspiring greatness in others, I can be found travelling the world exploring the beauty of nature.
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