It’s not easy to feel ‘successful’ these days.
We’re expected to do more, be more and have more than ever, and this obsession with ‘more’ can often seem to have no limits.
In Singapore (which I live next door to and visit pretty often), success has, for decades meant achieving the 5 Cs — the cash, car, credit card, condo and country club membership. These have since started making way for a new line-up of Cs, but either way, I wouldn’t say they’re unique to Singapore and are basically the Asian equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses in the West.
Do most people actually accumulate enough cash to acquire these societal milestones without going heavily into debt? Sadly, no — certainly not in Singapore and not in the U.S either.
And are these markers of success realistic? Not for the majority of people grinding it out to make ends meet as the cost of living keeps rising.
So how do you ‘feel’ successful without defining your worth in terms of dollar signs, the things you own or what you do for a living?
This is something I’ve been grappling with since I started taking a series of sabbaticals that’ve lasted anything from a couple of months to two years in-between full-time gigs.
When I’m not ensconced in the ‘busy-ness’ of a full-time job, how do I measure my success as a person?
When I am working, what does it actually mean to be successful?
TAKE OFF YOUR COMPARISON-TINTED GLASSES
Your markers of success will inevitably be tinted by comparisons that we tend to make between ourselves and everyone else, as well as unsolicited comparisons that come our way.
While there’s nothing wrong with stacking yourself up against the traditional standards of personal and professional accomplishments, what you truly want may not be what everyone else wants, and guess what? That’s completely OK.
Personally, I’m beginning to find the unnecessary stresses that comes with trying to fit into a rigid cookie cutter mould unbearable as I get older.
And whenever I manage to talk myself into believing that aspiring to check the standard boxes will automatically set me up to win, I end up realising that:
- Having more money will make me happier than not having enough of it (just ask anyone who’s barely able to make ends meet), but up to a certain point and not for long. It also won’t solve all my problems. In some instances, it can create new ones.
- I’ll be allowing someone else to dictate how I spend my money just to keep up, and I’ll be spending it on stuff that I don’t care about.
- And let’s be real: I can love my job, but it’s not going to love me back — anyone with a job can be replaced in the blink of an eye. Anyone. Even the CEO.
If I’m able to check all the boxes but aren’t happy, am I really successful? And once all these typical markers of success are stripped away from my identity, what’s left?
THE NEW MARKERS OF SUCCESS
If you’ve been wondering the same thing, here are 8 healthier and much saner ways to consider measuring your success as a human being.
1. You have a healthy relationship with money.
You work hard for your money, but you also recognise that it’s not the only thing you work for. You see money as a means to an end, not the end goal.
When you spend your money, you do it with intention and purpose instead of mindlessly. And you most definitely don’t spend your money to keep up with anyone who seems to have more than you.
As a result, even if you’re not pulling in a substantial income, you’re still able to save and invest for your future while also making the most of your present.
2. You’re doing work that you find purposeful.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a high-paying job that brings them joy and makes them feel like they’re fulfilling their purpose in life, so if you’re one of the fortunate few, you’ve hit the work-life jackpot.
But even if you’re not working at your dream job, you find a way to bring meaning into your day by being of service to others during your 9-5 or outside of it.
3. You have healthy, meaningful relationships.
You don’t necessarily have a ton of friends, but you do have relationships in your life that are built on mutual trust, respect and honesty.
You have boundaries in place that clearly let the people in your life know what the personal and professional rules you live by are, and aren’t afraid to communicate how you feel when a boundary has been crossed.
These relationships serve as a foundation that keeps you grounded, humble and purposeful as you go about living your life.
4. You’re taking care of your body and mind.
“Put your own oxygen mask on first” is no cliche to you because you know that it’s truth, and do your best to live by it.
If you can’t breathe, you can’t help others who rely on you to get the air they need, so you’ve made it a principle to put yourself first whenever you can.
You take care of yourself by eating the foods your body needs, mindfully. You move your body as much as you can, make it a point to get at least 7 hours of restful sleep daily, and practice good mental hygiene by learning how to master your thoughts so they don’t master you.
You’re not perfect and slip up from time to time, but you don’t beat yourself up over them because you know that expecting perfection isn’t realistic or sustainable.
After all, you’re human, not a robot.
In fact, recognising that you’re inherently flawed and being patient with yourself as a result of this is part of your self-care practice.
5. You live with integrity.
You’re not a fan of lip service — paying or receiving, so you say what you mean and mean what you say. By being honest with yourself and others, you make it easier to live by your truth, not someone else’s.
You’ve been through a lot — to the highest of highs and lowest of lows, so you know what exactly what it feels like to be done wrong and right by.
Because of this, you’ve learnt a lot about how you want to be treated, and have made it a personal rule to treat everyone who crosses your path, the same way.
6. You’re not afraid to be vulnerable.
It’s easy to feel alone even when you’re in a roomful of people, especially when everyone’s got that ‘I’m-popular-confident-and-have-my-shit-together’ game face on.
You know that pretending to be perfect doesn’t help you or anyone else connect authentically, so you make it a point to let your guard down by being honest about how you feel, even if it puts you at risk of looking ‘weak’.
This is why you’re not afraid to be upfront about who you are, what your weaknesses are and all the hard work you need to put into growing as a human being.
7. You’re kind.
Everyone is busy, everyone has an ego and everyone deals with hardships in life. And let’s face it: Life can make us brasher, more guarded and less sensitive with every passing day.
The harder the things we face, the harder our hearts can become.
You’re well aware of the potential effects that dealing with pain over and over can have on you, so you always remind yourself that you’re not the only one who’s experiencing it.
Rather than react without thought when someone hurts you, you put yourself in the other person’s shoes because you know that being kind can make someone else’s day and yours better, but being hateful won’t.
8. You’re down, but you don’t plan to stay there.
Life hasn’t been kind to you lately.
Your spirit’s feeling so broken, beaten and bruised that you’re not sure if you’ll ever heal from the pain that’s weighing you down.
But even though you’re at the lowest you’ve ever been, you know that giving up whenever the universe throws you a setback isn’t how you want to go through life.
So you keep showing up every single day, open and willing to give things another go at 110%. Little by little, you find ways to invite joy into your life, rebuild your confidence, nourish your soul and strengthen your spirit.
You may be down, but back on your feet and on top of your game is where you plan to be, because to you, that’s what being successful in life truly means.
TAKE THE 7-DAY CALM MIND CHALLENGE.
Trying to win at life from day to day is hard. It gets even harder when you’re struggling with thoughts that leave you feeling reactive to the world and heavy with painful emotions that hold you back from living your best life. Start re-framing your thoughts to calm your mind, feel good about life and create the mental space that’s a must to reach your highest potential with my FREE, 7-Day Calm Mind Challenge. You’ll also receive my best calm-living tips & trainings delivered to your inbox every week. Sign up for your dose of calm now.
Photo by Joshua Earle / Unsplash