How do you define success in life?
This is a really important question to deeply contemplate for ourselves because the culture around us is constantly promoting materialistic and individualistic success as the highest values.
And the problem with those values is that research from the last decade (1) shows that people whose values center around material success tend to be less happy and are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, chronic stress, low self-esteem, and problems with intimacy—this is regardless of age, income, or culture.
So when we strive to acquire status, wealth, and achievement in an attempt to gain happiness and love in fact we might be pushing them away.
This idea of success through getting stuff, doing stuff and trying to be special is constantly promoted to us through the media and advertising, so if we don’t get clear on what OUR definition of success is, then we tend to unconsciously adopt the values of what we see and hear around us.
So knowing your definition of success REALLY matters if you want to lead a rich, full and meaningful life.
The path to your own true success
My Uncle Geoffrey is one of the happiest and kindest people I’ve ever known. He chose, very deliberately, to live a life quite different to the status quo.
He lived a very simple life on the few acres of land he lived on. He grew quite a bit of his own food, took care of the animals on his farm, looked after his neighbours and friends and did kind deeds when no-one was looking (or so he thought).
As far as I know he was never ambitious in a worldly sense and had no interest in standing out or amassing wealth. He valued sustainability, contentment and kindness and has lived a very quiet and yet full and rich life. Although he was sometimes criticized for his choice to live so simply he never wavered from his own path. He always seemed to be very clear on who he was and what made him happy.
He has always been an inspiration to me in his unwavering clarity about his own wellbeing and happiness. That kind of unwavering clarity is needed more today that ever before as the pace of life speeds up and anxiety, depression, loneliness are rising at alarming rates. This clarity can lead us back to wisdom, purpose and peace of mind.
Discover and hold strong to what matters deep in your heart
There’s nothing wrong with having nice things or achieving big goals. There’s also nothing wrong with living simply and humbly.
What IS important is that the goals and values we are focussed are truly our own and really do lead to us living a more happy and meaningful life.
So my invitation to us all is to take a pause and think about what success really means to us. Not what anyone else tells us, not what the media shows us, but what we truly value deep in our own hearts.
Maybe your definition of success might include being grateful for the abundance and beauty in your life or looking after your family, your friends. Perhaps you value being kind to others, living sustainably and contributing to the community. Maybe it matters to you to stand up and raise your voice against inequality. Maybe spirituality, connecting with nature, slow living, creativity or generosity matter most to you. Maybe it’s all of the above or something totally different.
Whatever success might look like to you, see if you can get clearer on that, move closer to that and act from that.
If you can live your life guided by your own of definition of success then I think you’ll find that true fulfilment, meaning and purpose naturally emerge within you like warm sunshine.
As always, thank you for your practice – for being a person who is working at living with more awareness, love and wisdom.
With love and respect,
P.S You can get all my meditations, talks, courses and daily mindfulness coaching at Mindfulness.com. It’s free to join so come on over and give it a try today.
(1) Considering the Self in the Link Between Self-Esteem and Materialistic Values: The Moderating Role of Self-Construal
Materialistically False: A QA with Tim Kasser about the Pursuit of the Good Life through Goods
Tim Kasser, “The High Price of Materialism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).