Because we were taught to obey and agree, we followed – either willingly or reluctantly – the formula prescribed to us by the authority figures in our lives. Their definition of success became the beacon that guided us until we came into our own.
Redefining success in your own terms can be both exciting and daunting at the same time. Some of us are still held back by the voices of significant people in our lives who did all the planning for us. But with a little soul-searching, things will eventually fall into place.
You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
“Besides my loved ones, what is the other most important thing in my life?” Is there a personal or professional endeavor you want to undertake? Do you want recognition, money or both? Your own definition of success starts with the answers to these questions.
“Do I need others to validate or approve my chosen vocation?” Perhaps more importantly, would you even care if they disapproved?
“Will I actually enjoy what I’m planning to do?” Remember that if you’re going to do something independently outside the usual prescriptive actions you grew up with, you should genuinely be interested in it. Happiness in your vocation is the foundation of success. Specifically, this is your own happiness, and not someone else’s.
“Do I have the courage to pursue what I want?” It’s either a yes or a no. The word “maybe” does not count.
When you have answered these questions, do a little daydreaming. Picture the ideal you in about 5, 10 or 15 years. How you see yourself in your daydream will help your own definition of success become clearer.
One of the important things to remember when carving your own niche is that success is relative. What may strike you as a major achievement will seem small and insignificant in the eyes of others. For
example, you can pull $2,000 a month from freelance writing on the side and still feel successful. That’s probably the same amount of money your successful novelist relative earns in an hour. You choose how you feel. Don’t let other’s definition of success rain on your parade.
At the end of the day, the opinions of other people don’t matter as long as you are satisfied with your own accomplishments. They can call you out for your unconventional choices and supposed lack of loftier goals. They can criticize you for not aiming for bigger and better. But that is their definition. Your definition is the right one for you. Aim for your own star and not someone else’s.
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