Life is pretty much conditioned by your upbringing and culture. The myth of American dream, of climbing up the social ladder from rags to riches poisons minds all around the world. Everybody wants success. It is such a nasty and intimidating word. It doesn’t mean a thing!
I checked the entry SUCCESS in the Oxford Dictionary and here is what I found:
1.1 The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.
1.2 [COUNT NOUN] A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.
2. archaic The good or bad outcome of an undertaking.
The term is mostly used to describe professional success as achievement of high financial status or preeminence in some different field, e.g. science. Do really I have to be a tough lady in a suit with a Ph.D., running a big enterprise, driving a good car, shaking hands with businessmen, and making $60k a month, so I can call myself successful? Do I have to attend some Ivy League university in order to achieve all this? Is that what I really want to do in my life? If I decide to take a different path, am I a failure?
The answer is NO, NO, and NO.
Depression made me realize things I haven’t even thought about before. A fear of being a failure forced me to define what success means to me.
Note that “attainment of fame, wealth, or social status” is a secondary meaning of the word success. For some people financial achievement and public recognition are a real success, but it doesn’t have to be the same for you. I personally don’t care.
Other more conventional measures of success may be regard your education and personal or family life. Or having raised baby geniuses. If I haven’t graduated from my master studies, don’t have any children at the age of 27, I haven’t married, I am not even engaged, and the truth is, I am about to split with my boyfriend, and I have depression. Does all this make me a failure?
Not at all.
So, maybe success is being a well-traveled person, who has been there, done that, and lived numerous adventures in the most exotic countries?
It may be, if that is what you want it to be.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of success is so broad that it may contain anything you are happy about and proud of. There is no definition of what it means to be successful in life valid for all people. If you don’t define what success is for you, somebody else will. Parents and teachers want to hammer in children their definition of success since early childhood. If you don’t study now, you will become a physical construction worker or a truck driver, or, even worse, a garbage collector, blah-blah-blah. As if there was anything wrong with any of those, or if there were no happy people among them.
When would I consider my life a success?
I used to be very much success-oriented, but even at the university, I wasn’t sure which path to choose. I was lucky enough to try whatever I wanted. I worked in a restaurant in London as a teen, then in another in Spain. The next summer I skippered a boat in the Mazurian Lakes. I also was a tour leader, as a tour operator rep in Portugal, and an insurance agent. None of those jobs would make me entirely happy. None of them was something I could be doing for the rest of my life. I was grateful for the experience, sometimes even enjoyed it in a way, but only as a short episode in my career. I was also pretty bad at every of those jobs. Why am I such a failure in life?
It took me 27 years of life and a depression episode to realize that social prestige, power, and thick wallet are not what I’m actually aiming at. The vision of me as a “successful” businesswoman doesn’t motivate me to try harder. It’s become repulsive. All the jobs requiring strong social skills weren’t for me either, because I’m kind of a loner by nature.
Within me there was also another side, a sensitive hippie dreaming about backpacking around the world, camping in the wilderness, hiking in the mountains, sailing the seven seas, surfing in the Canary Islands, living on a beach in Thailand, taking care of a herd of sheep in the countryside. Doing anything that would involve freedom, spontaneity and adventure.
I think I would consider my life a success, if upon the end of my time, I could look back without regretting the chances I missed, and see no falls I denied myself to raise from.
I’m tired of the rat race and I quit. It’s official.
So, what do I want from life?
A want a caring partner to make a family with. Someone, who will love me to the moon and back, who will have similar passions and interests. Someone who will be happy to join me on my adventures sometimes, and sometimes will be OK with staying home a waiting for me. Somebody, for whom money is not an aim as such, but a necessary mean to live a satisfactory and comfortable life and truly enjoy the time on Earth we are given.
I also want a creative job that will give me flexibility, satisfaction and enough money to maintain a family, pay my bills, and be able to go abroad once in a while without counting every penny.
Well, I already got the job 🙂 I’m one step closer to my aim.
If you want success, start with defining what it is for you and what you are aiming at. Maybe it is much closer than you think.
Dear friend, I wish you success, but only on your own terms!
PS. If you are interested in self growth and discouraged by the rat race, check my post about money, happiness and a fulfilling life.
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