Several years ago at the District 56 Table Topics Contest, I was "What is your definition of success?" As we start a new year, I think this is an interesting question to reflect on.
The beauty and challenge of success is that the definition keeps moving. In elementary school it might have been "get good grades." High school probably included "Varsity athlete, dating the quarterback, or staring in the school play, graduate." College: "Find the right major, get good grades, join the right fraternity / sorority, graduate." Immediately after college: "get a job, get married, buy a house." Mid-career: "promotions and pay raises." Post career: "beach condo, world travel, retirement"
The funny thing about most of these definitions of success is that they are largely defined by the outside. We perceive success as "What will make others think I'm successful?" In fact, this "funny thing" has become a real problem, partially because of social media. People post on social media only the brightest and most glamorous portions of their lives, and those portions are often doctored or engineered for the most favorable light. This creates the illusion that the person "has it together", "is successful" and you wonder why you're life is so dull / difficult by comparison. Articles are appearing about Facebook Envy and The Psychology of Facebook Depression.
This external definition of success is a difficult facade to maintain. As leaders, we should be defining success for ourselves and helping our team refine their own definition of success. If you can find a definition of success that works for you regardless of the outside world's opinion, you will be happier and more motivated. If you can help your team find it, then they will experience the same thing and more will be accomplished with less trouble / difficulties.
There are all types of articles and self-help books related to finding success and happiness. I tried to write a list of questions to help with the process, but they all started sounding pretentious. If you need questions, Google can provide an unending sea of them. I'm not going to point to any one book, article, website in particular, but instead I would encourage you to explore for yourself first. But I don't want you to take a survey, I want you to think! Turn off LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. etc. etc. and start to think about what success means to you. Write it down, and then refine it; if you can try to get to 10 words or less (it will be easier to remember). Now ask yourself "Why would this make me successful?" If your answer has anything to do with friends, parents, opinions, or social media then you're probably still looking at an external definition of success. Dig deeper!
After you've found a definition that works for you, I would encourage you to not only display it where you will see it often, but also to go to Animoto or some other service and make a video that will motivate you to work toward success. Push for it everyday!
Finally, remember that success is a mile marker, not a destination. Whether the definition of success comes from the outside or from within, there will always be another step to take and another marker further down the road. That's the beauty of life. Success is only over when you stop chasing it.
How are you defining success for the coming year. Last week we talked about New Years Resolutions (NYRs). How are your NYRs matching up with your definition of success? What adjustments will you make? Comment below to let me know, and I may even share a few of my own as I go through this process myself.
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