In the whirlwind of our busy daily lives and chasing success, how often do we have the time to stop and think about what success actually means? My name is Naomi Burgess and if you’re reading this post, then the time is now.
We live in a culture of instant gratification. I’m not going to debate whether it’s a good or a bad thing, because it works differently for everyone, but the one thing it leaves little time for is evaluation and contemplation. While the instant gratification you receive from a salary raise or praise from your boss is wonderful, is it really worth it if it’s all you get for working hard every day?
Of course, your answer to the above question might very well be “yes”, and if so, I’m happy for you. But no matter what these things mean to you, eventually hard work and dissatisfaction on a deeper level than instant gratification catches up with us and begins to adversely affect our performance and our personal lives. Exhaustion does not equal success, and I think deep down, you know that too.
Success means different things to everyone, but what you need to understand is that it can also mean different things to you at different points of your life. In short-term, it can mean things like hard work paying off and promotions to higher level positions, but that’s only a single aspect of it.
Once you’ve gotten to where you wanted to be at some point in your life, your priorities shift and your definition of success shifts too, even though you might not realise it at the time. Now that you’ve achieved a goal, you want to achieve more goals in order to become successful, and thus begins the vicious cycle of “being so, so busy” and “harder better faster stronger”. At first, it’s great, and you feel as though you’re incredibly successful, but eventually it begins to be something that stresses you out rather than something you want to achieve. Your mood is constantly at a low level, your personal relationships suffer and you’re exhausted every day; and yet you refuse to take a vacation because you believe that you need to carry on as you are in order to achieve something. And this is where most people struggle to see that their definition of success needs to change again.
The change doesn’t mean being paid more, however. It means shattering the outdated approaches and introducing creative and innovative solutions. I’m not going to spend time analysing industries as an example of how you can do so, because “outdated” and “innovative” mean different things in each industry, but I will say that this new stage of being successful is about you. Not your boss, not your company – you. You need to be in charge of yourself and your projects. This doesn’t mean you should take over the company as a CEO (but more power to you if you feel like it’s the best thing for you) – it means something different to everyone. Most of all, however, it means living your life how YOU want it.
Success is Discovering
The best thing about this stage of success is that you get to step outside your comfort zone and see all the things you’ve been missing out on while you were buried underneath all the work. These things would help you expand your horizons and decide what you want to do next. It can be as simple as a reunion with your family and friends; it can even be a work-related thing – of course I wouldn’t advise you to deliberately defy your boss, but if doing a project your way at work is what expanding your horizons means to you, by all means go for it. It can, of course, be a well-deserved vacation.
Success is Learning
Once you embark on this new venture, you would see that you now have the time to think about what you really want and use the results of your conclusions in your project. Whether it’s transferring to a new office, starting your own company or even working with a new client your company would’ve never considered until you suggested it, you can do it on your own terms, and I promise that you would get much better results that the ones you’ve been getting while you were stressed out. Creative and innovative solutions start with ideas brought up by people, and you can be that person – if it means that your company is also more successful as a result, well done! But even if not, your company’s success doesn’t have to define yours. Only you can do that.
Success is Fulfillment
Thankfully, young people today are beginning to see that success doesn’t mean working yourself to the point of utter exhaustion and burning out for a six-figure salary. As the world becomes more global and connected, Generation Y is realising that there’s a lot more to life than that, and their definition of success is beginning to be different from that of their parents. Making their future the one they want – whether it means starting an Internet company that’s going to make billions of dollars (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg), becoming a writer and selling millions of copies of their book (e.g. Zoella) or in fact starting their career in a large corporation because they want to – the Millennials are slowly but surely reshaping the culture of “being busy” and making us realise the importance of living a life on your own terms and making the instant gratification culture work for them.