Most of us want to be successful; we want our kids to be successful and we admire people who are successful. In my own work I also focus a lot on success, on creating success that feels good and how to be successful and happy.
Success is equated with a good life and we accept that it means different things to different people. We also accept that our personal definition may evolve as we go through different stages of our lives. On that basis, ‘success’ should be a fluid term open to subjectivity and interpretation, but the reality is, no matter how we slice or dice it, there remains a commonly accepted definition of success – the one tied to wealth and status.
Without even realising it, many of us, even in our quest for ‘something more’ and ‘a greater sense of purpose and meaning’ still equate true success with the attainment of money and power or influence. Some of the brightest, most enquiring minds I work with, people who are thinking about life and work more deeply and holistically and wanting to pull away from traditional badges of success – are discovering that beneath the surface they too have strongly held beliefs that success = money, status and power, and success = good (ergo – money, status and power = good).
So, what do you to do about it?
It’s not as simple as saying “define success on your own terms and go for it” because you can’t just layer a new truth over the top of an old, deeply internalised one. To rewrite your definition of success and wealth, you need to accept and unpick your existing definitions first and then go ahead and write a new story.
Make sure your definition of success is your own
Whose definition of success are you chasing?
Having come from a corporate background where pursing the next rank up to more status and more money was built into our DNA, I thought the personal development industry might be a little different. But the pursuit ‘up’ was there too – ‘level up’, ‘how to scale’, ‘turn your online business into 7 figures.’ I can’t tell you how many emails I get from other coaches offering to help me get investors, scale and Make More Money Now.
For generations, class structures and capitalism have reinforced the belief that wealth and status is right and good, and people with wealth and status are right and good. This has come at the expense of many. To push against it, overcome it and rewrite it, you need to get open and honest with yourself. What is your current definition of success, really? Where did it come from? Was it inherited from your family, society, the media, your workplace? Can you accept that on some level you hold it as your own too? Do you really want to let go of it? And if you could rewrite your definition of success – what would it be? How close to that are you right now? What changes could you make to get even closer?
Get comfortable in the present moment (it’s the only place you’ll ever be)
Many of us struggle with living in the present moment – the pursuit of success gives us an excellent excuse to focus our attention elsewhere. Success is future-oriented, it’s a fantasy we never reach (because ‘once’ we get there we immediately move the target again), it propels us to the ‘what else?’, ‘what next?’, ‘what more?’! But because of this, it takes us away from where we are right now and what we need each day to feel contentment and satisfaction. By not focusing on the right now (through presence and gratitude), you put yourself on a perpetual cycle of discontentment and dissatisfaction.
I am pro-ambition. I do believe it is important to have an eye to the future and some direction in your career or business, but I believe it is more critical – the most critical – to focus on what is making up the hours in your days. What you choose to invest in each day (the work, the people, the time spent or left free) is what creates greater wellbeing, happiness – and success.
Focus on feeling successful today instead being successful tomorrow (sure, aim for both but prioritise the former).
Take a moment to take stock of how you spend your time:
- Are you enduring boring projects, toxic people or working endless evenings and weekends for some elusive, future gain?
- Are your targets all future-based or do you have some targets for each day (like how you’d like to feel)?
- What adjustments could be made to create space for things that bring you pleasure?
Don’t be cash-rich and time/health-broke
Success by its narrowest definition includes the attainment of wealth and when we think or wealth, we tend to think of it in terms of money and assets. If we’re rethinking our definition of success, we need to rethink – and expand – what we mean by wealth too.
I recently saw a LinkedIn post by Marvin Harrison about the 4 types of wealth:
- Financial wealth (Money)
- Social wealth (Status)
- Time wealth (Freedom)
- Physical and mental wealth (Health)
It said to be wary of jobs that give you 1 and 2 at the expense of 3 and 4.
I hadn’t seen this definition of wealth before, but it explained perfectly what I had instinctively been trying to create in my business – balance across a broader range of wealth measures.
If on the outside, you appear successful but, on the inside, you feel dissatisfied or trapped in the perpetual cycle of ‘never-enoughness’ then it’s likely you are struggling inside a narrow definition of wealth – and you are broke in 1 or more of the measures. By balancing your wealth across time and health wealth, as well as financial and social wealth, you create success that is more sustainable and lasting, and less tenuous and fleeting.
Create balance across all wealth measures to create richer and more sustainable success
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my financial wealth?
- What is my social wealth?
- What is my time wealth?
- What is my physical and mental wealth?
- What other types of wealth do I value? (I’ve got creative wealth on my list)
- Am I sacrificing wealth in some areas for wealth in others?
- How can I create more balance across these 4 measures?
We are rethinking what our new normal looks like. Let your own definition of success and wealth inform that too. By all means, create and maintain financial wealth, but not at the repeated expense of your time and health wealth. Have goals for the future but not at the repeated expense of your present moments.
By making daily decisions that allow you to be content and present right now, you can rewrite your success and wealth story and become successful and wealthy in new and unexpected ways.