I’ve been thinking about success recently, and what a strange concept it is. In a way it’s like happiness: difficult to define and most often the by-product of something else. I listened to a podcast recently where the host was talking about the gap between what we’ve been taught sucess is, and our own personal version of success. She encouraged her listeners to write down all the things they were taught were the hallmarks of success, and then compare it with what their own version of success looks like.
Mine looks something like this:
It was a useful exercise in seeing just how different my own version of success is compared to what I’ve been brought up to believe are indicators of success. It shows that material possessions aren’t markers of success to me; the majority of things I think of as being successful are a lot more abstract. In a way, that makes it more difficult to judge whether you are successful or not. You could say that owning your own car or getting promoted to CEO or earning X amount of money means you’ve made it; but how do you know that you have independence or strong relationships? How do you quantify that? I feel like those are the kinds of things you only know when you’re at the end of your life, looking back. Deathbed judgements.
So maybe I can’t yet judge whether I’m successful or not. But what this exercise has been useful for is to clarify what my values are. What are the things that I think are more important than anything else? Well, the page above shows that I value:
health (mental and physical)
What is interesting in looking at this list, is that I don’t feel that my actions currently reflect the fact that I value these things above all else. For example, I supposedly value good health, and yet I make decisions everyday that take me away from this. I value travel, and yet I choose to spend money on material things rather than saving up for trips. I value relationships; yet I barely speak to some close family members back home.
This shows to me that I need to start thinking more about my everyday actions and consider how I can adjust them to bring me more into line with my values. That’s going to take a long time and I’m sure will be the subject of many more waffly blog posts; but in the meantime, I’d encourage everyone to try this exercise out. You might be surprised at how different your own version of success is to what you think it is.