Who Defines Your Success? You Do!
I’m inspired today by the 2012 documentary I’m Fine Thanks, which reveals alternatives to a life lived by other people’s standards. You can buy it for $5.00 at the link above. I recommend!
I heard about it this morning on the Fizzle Show’s podcast #140 How to Create Your Own Definition of Success, which argues that if we want a life that works for us, we need to create our own definition of success.
They begin with the Merriam-Webster definition of success:
Success | suc • ces | \sək-’ses\ | noun: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect or fame.
The equivalent in the [British] Oxford English Dictionary is: “the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status”.
Like me, the Fizzle Team believe that these definitions are too limited and that they reflect a materialistic ideology which is often very unsatisfying.
Researchers at Strayer University, are proposing a new definition:
Happiness, derived from good relationships, and achieving personal goals.
I don’t want to split hairs here, but actually the buzz on goals nowadays is that achieving them is not as happiness-inducing as once thought.
Influential blogger James Clear suggests that we forget about setting goals, and instead focus on the process that takes you there - for example, the daily writing habit that leads to the book, rather than the book itself, or the regular exercise schedule that gets you fit enough to run a marathon, not running a marathon.
This kind of thinking is implicit in the Well Made Lives approach, where success is defined as having the life that fits you best. Having a well made life is both a goal AND a process because when you want to change, it really helps if you love doing the small thing that leads to the big thing.
When you create a well-made life, every small increment has benefits. Even the slightest shift has value - stopping something that gets in the way or doesn’t really matter, taking a little more time to decompress or spend time with someone you love, creating a small habit or slightly modifying a big bad habit.
As I’ve personally found - adopting habits that benefit you in small ways every day can lead to wonderful, even if completely unforeseen, long-term changes.
The converse is also true. When you want to improve your food choices or your health and fitness it helps if you think of what you’re doing as a lifestyle, not a diet or a programme.
Living in such an uncertain and potentially disruptive world, we are forced more and more to cherish the moment rather than to reach for the stars. It’s no accident that things like essentialism and mindfulness, tiny habits and micro-resolutions are hot right now.
They not only reflect our time poverty and limited attention spans, but also cater to our growing need to pivot and transform quickly and more effortlessly. Who has the time or spare mental energy to make complicated and difficult adjustments to their life?
And yet this is what we want. The same world that disrupts and discombobulates also empowers and inspires us to go our own way and be who we really are, despite our very human desires to fit in and be admired by people we know. In a world where everything seems possible, we are drawn to live our one life with few irritations and no regrets.
So if you set aside what your loved ones want[ed] for you and what your friends are doing, what would success look like to you?