by The Indigo Project
When you think of the word “success”, what image flashes to mind? A garage full of Bentley’s? A Kimmy-K bod dripping in designer threads? A bank account overflowing with funds? The full lyrical content of Lorde’s “Royals”?
In the western world, we have pretty strict and unimaginative notions of what success looks like – money, fame, beauty, popularity… however, the quest to achieve these things often comes with the implicit belief that when we finally get these things, we will feel good – we will feel accomplished, and proud, and happy, and …well, successful.
But here’s the stinger – there’s is no real proof to suggest that people who have these things – copious amounts of money, fame, beauty, tigers on a gold leash – actually feel any better than the rest of us. In fact, the slew of celeb biographies chronicling personal struggles with mental illness, substance use disorder and high-profile suicides show us that, even armed with all the trappings of success, we can still feel pretty damn miserable.
So what does that mean for success?
It can help to expand our understanding of what success means for us – what it looks like, what it feels like, and even entertaining the idea that it is something we can be worthy of, even right now, in this very moment.
To do that, why not start by considering the following questions
Does success have to equal feeling good?
Straight up, you might instinctively say “yes” – after all, when we’re feeling crappy we’re not exactly the living embodiment of success, right? But, consider any of the challenging, but ultimately rewarding, experiences of your life – be it developing a new talent or skill, raising a child, getting a degree, starting a business, developing nurturing relationships with others, or championing a cause you believe in deeply – chances are that these experiences did not invite overwhelming feelings of the warm and fuzzy kind.
It’s more likely you were (and perhaps still are) also visited by many confronting emotions of frustration, sadness, anger, rejection, anxiety, stress and disappointment. Sometimes the most rewarding and meaningful experiences in our lives invite us to endure uncomfy emotions regularly.
Does success have to be goal-oriented?
Take a moment and imagine you’ve done it! You’ve won the award. You’ve copped the trophy. You’ve got the recognition. You’ve married your soul mate. You’ve bought the house. You’ve got the job. Goal accomplished. Success attained. But…now what? Sure, smashing goals might feel good in the moment, and we might coast for a while on the afterglow, but life goes on and, as with any emotion, those good feelings don’t last. It’s at that point that we set new goals, loftier goals, and we tell ourselves that we will finally feel good when we smash those ones.
The problem with this concept of success is that we can never consider ourselves successful until every goal has been reached, and that never happens, because we just keep moving the line. And we make “feeling good” a reward we pin to external accomplishments, as opposed to something we can allow ourselves to experience every day.
Who/what defines your idea of success?
When interrogating your own personal definition of success – ask yourself, how did you come to it? Did your parents raise you with a certain idea of what it means to be successful? Did your friends and partners? Did representations in the media of celebrities and entrepreneurs and supermodels shape your definition? And then ask yourself, how does it feel to hold these definitions tightly – Are they invigorating and empowering? Are they suffocating and stifling? Are they rigid and limiting? Are they accessible and flexible?
Despite however long and firmly held your belief in a certain type of success has endured – the good news is that you always have the freedom and power to redefine it for yourself. This is not a cop-out but rather, a liberation!
Below is a list of definitions of success, submitted by our Indigo community. Try them on for size – how would it feel to expand your definition of success to include the following?