Episode 27 - How Your Definition of Success is Holding You Back
In today’s episode, we’ll discuss how your definition of success is holding you back.
Find the show notes for this episode at RecoveringCorpoholics.com/27.
I’ve been chasing success for as long as I remember. From early on, I wanted to get the best grades, get into the best schools, get the job with the best employer, and so on.
And if you are in Corporate America, most likely, this is something that you may feel or have felt, too.
Success is deeply personal and everyone has their own definition. However, some of our definitions of success are not our own. They may be our parents, our mentors or even what we think is success based on society.
And if you’re not clear on what success is to you, then you may get stuck in a career or doing work that actually doesn’t matter to you. That’s why today, I want to talk about how your definition of success is holding you back.
Why our definition of success in wrong
According to society, we have been taught that the higher we perform or the higher the value of things we have to show for our actions, the more successful we are.
For example, from a young age, we were all taught that the higher the grades, the smarter and more successful we were.
And as we grew up, that translated into the higher the salary, the the higher # of likes or followers we have, the more expensive our car is, the bigger the house, the better/bigger company we work for, the higher up the position, and I can go on… the higher the success.
And in my opinion, this leads us to having a competition mindset. You want the best grades, you want to make the most money, you want the highest positions, you want to be the smartest in the room and so on.
That is at least until you get to a level where you feel like you made it.
But in order for that to happen, you need to do or be better than others. And even though you don’t want people to necessarily lose, you do want to win so therefore, something has to give.
This competition mindset also makes us fear losing. And not just that you did better than me on a test, losing. Losing then feels like anything less than what we have or what we want.
And we then directly feel like we lost our value or we’re not as good enough.
It’s like we're all in a race and we’re scared to come in last place. Like in the Olympics, only the top 3 get rewarded.
We start to think, “if I don't get the best grades, I won't go to the best school. If I don't go to the best school, I won't get the best job. If I don't get the best job, I won't make the best salary."
"If I don’t have a good salary, I won't be able to have the lifestyle I want. And if that happens, no one will respect me and I'll be alone.”
Unless we finish in a top place, nothing is good enough and we are scared of the worst case scenarios. We are scared of being mediocre. And when we are acting this way, competition and being the best becomes our life.
And how successful we feel directly correlates to how we feel about ourselves. The more successful you feel, for the most part, the happier you are. The more fulfilled you are.
Success is not our own
And if you think about it, success is then something we don't have control over. We are letting others decide what success looks like for us.
We may say that we don’t care about what others think about us but in reality, we are living our lives based on what others do think about us.
Do we really want that promotion or do we want to show others we are getting promoted? Do we really care about going the extra mile or are we trying to prove ourselves to someone or for something?
Did we really care about the B we got on a project or was it that we were scared of what our parents were going to think? Maybe later in life we cared but in our early years, maybe this is something we learned.
Success is outside of control, and therefore, makes us act in ways that are inauthentic to us. Which is why I believe so many people are unhappy.
So what happens? You push yourself harder (which can lead to burnout), you stay in a company or job you hate to keep your title or salary, you do things to show up better, and so on.
And that is why I think most people's definition of success is actually holding them back. No wonder why we are all so miserable!
I still remember that day I woke up and said, why am I pushing myself toward Partner? Do I actually want this?
And I know for me, this is what held me back from starting my business in the first place and what held me back in the beginning from thriving!
That’s when I knew I needed to re-examine my definition of success.
How to change
Once you realize that your definition of success hasn’t been your own, or that you don’t know what it is that makes you feel successful, you can start to redefine what success is to you.
So I will challenge you to think now, what is your definition of success? Take some time to really explore it.
And if you get stuck, here are a couple different exercises you can do to understand and explore what you consider success to be.
Exercise 1 is the most simplistic exercise. For this exercise, I want you to think about the following questions and journal your answers.
What is success to you at work? At Home? With your family? Etc. What does it look like? Then think, am I living that now? If so, think how I can do more of that? If you’re not, think, how can I start living like that now?
Other questions to consider are:
I want people to know that I love… or I want people to remember me as:
Another exercise you can do is to think about where you’ve felt successful in the past.
For this exercise, I want you to think back to 3 times you felt successful. Then for each scenario, I want you to think about why and write that down: What was going on? What were you doing? Why did you feel this way?
After you complete this exercise, see if you can find any similarities or patterns between the 3 experiences and see if you can determine what it is that made you feel successful and what you consider success.
For the 3rd exercise, I want you to think of yourself as someone who is retiring, turning 70, getting a life achievement award, aka, basically a situation when you are older and there is going to be a party to celebrate your accomplishments.
People will be giving speeches of your life's work and the impact you made on the world and on them. What are these people saying about you? What impact do you have on them or the world? Write down the speech of what they would say about you.
Just a quick caveat here, I want you to think of the message alone, not who the people giving the speeches are.
I hope this episode provided some clarity for you and what you consider success. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime at RecoveringCorpoholics.com/contact.
Stay Inspired and live powerfully,
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