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Is Our Interpretation of Success Distorted?

Authors, professionals, world leaders and many others have made attempts at defining success. Innumerous articles have been written and books published, talking about success and how to achieve it. People everywhere define success as their goal without truly understanding what it means. Why are we so eager to be successful but we don’t spare a breath to question or understand it?

Most of us fail to ask a basic question - who decides what makes us successful? We end up spending our whole lives chasing the world’s understanding of it. A critical aspect of being successful that we fail to realise, is that there is no universal definition for success - it is merely an interpretation or personal experiences of individuals of what success should be.

We seek success because we have been made to believe that it is the stepping stone towards happiness. Our minds are conditioned to only accept the version of happiness and success that we have been told about by those authoritarian figures in our lives. However, those who would want to live with their material failure, or pain that they have suffered, and come out of it organically would perhaps be called ‘unstable’ or ‘insane’.

A top-notch business school professor, the CEO of an established business, the owner of a new business – who do we consider a successful person? They all may be as successful as the other or they may be the most unsuccessful professional in their domain. Has that got anything to do with your interpretation or mine? Success isn’t limited to what’s visible to others on the outside. Success isn’t measurable by one’s salary, their assets or their degrees. Success is not even limited to how happy or not a person seems and success is certainly different from accomplishment.

We often use the words success and accomplishment interchangeably. At the end of achieving a goal, we expect to find success but we barely stop to acknowledge or recognize that what we HAVE found is just an accomplishment. However, we do find that missing feeling of success. So, we set our mind to something bigger, hoping that that will make us feel successful. We get so entangled in our desire to be successful that we miss out on the very feelings and moments that we sought in the first place.

Success is not general, success is not universal, success is personal. Success isn’t static, success is dynamic, success is not achieving a goal or set objective, but it is being present to the constantly changing world around us and growing with it - no matter in what capacity. The meaning of success will keep changing as we grow personally, professionally and emotionally. We just need to stay with it.

We really need to open our minds to understanding success without being driven by pre-defined versions of it. Let’s un-condition our minds and open it up to the idea that success may come from anything and isn’t restricted to something that can be quantified. It is important to realise that the very first step towards being successful is to understand what success means for you. Personally.


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