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Meaningful success, and how to define it in everyday life

In our modern-day society, success seems to be measured by what we have done, created or accumulated. As a result, many of us chase career titles, social status or money. Influenced by others around us, and often by the media, we tend to believe that success can be found in material possessions, status, and a life filled with luxury—surrounded by our materialistic culture. We relate this definition of success to happiness and yet, accumulating those things does not make us happier. On the other hand, when we don’t achieve those things, our life is not considered a success—judged from the outside-in perspective of what other people consider most important in life.

Success as we define it is ephemeral in all areas of life—the pleasure we find in material possessions, career titles or money will eventually fade. While these things can bring pleasure in the short term, this version of happiness needs to be fuelled by ever more stimulus to sustain it. Stimulus that distracts us from the activities and relationships that make our lives meaningful. This leads us to a rethinking of what success is all about. Do we chase after a false objective of happiness and success?

The truth is, success is not concrete or easily defined. That is because it looks different for every single person. We all think and feel in unique ways, and whether or not we are successful in life depends on our own definition of success: our ways of “making meaning” for ourselves—how we construct, understand and make sense of our own lives. This is not an outside-in perspective, but an inside-out perspective, extending from the metrics of money and power to the things we really care about.

“Achieving success means living our lives in line with our personal definition of success by staying true to our goals and values, continuously expanding our happiness by taking meaningful action towards worthy goals. “

This requires personal reflection—sitting down and defining what success is to you—crucial for ongoing growth and development. What is the meaning that you strive for? There is always a why to your success, and the key to achieving happiness is to define your why.

Being able to define what success means to you, both in short-term and long-term goals is the first step to living a more purposeful life. You can never be truly happy chasing someone else’s definition of success, but you create a definition of meaning and success for yourself.
Success is not a destination, but an ever-evolving journey without a set out path. At the same time, it is a mindset you must adopt to accomplish your personal and professional goals. Once you understand this, once you remove the veil of what success really means to you, you can start designing your life based on what you want, not what you think you should do.

While on the journey to achieving what you define as success, work towards your short-term, daily successes by celebrating small accomplishments, not only the ones that lie at the end of the journey.

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