What do you want in life? What are your deepest desires? What keeps you awake at night? What makes you want to get out of bed each morning? We should ask these questions to ourselves ever so often. While they seem simplistic on the surface, they are deep and personal. And at times, your own responses may surprise you.
Usually, we are in a perpetual process of striving for something. We really (sometimes desperately) want something to manifest in our lives. We even put a stake in the ground and associate a large part of our identity with this one thing we want to achieve. Its pursual consumes us and takes over us. We ignore our loved ones, our sleep, food habits and as a result, we also ignore our health, just to get that one thing we want. We are so occupied in this striving, that we do not really think about where that desire came from or even how dedicating our lives to that desire makes us feel.
But often, all these feelings are below the surface of our subconscious, like an iceberg that only rears its tiny little head. All these feelings exist under the water. Large, looming, and untouched. However, the tip of the iceberg is normal-sized and acceptable. Something we acknowledge openly and talk about freely. We tell strangers and it even comes up in the most intimate conversations. We express our desires and wants. That tip of the iceberg is the want to be successful. That is what we tell ourselves each day. The ship of our lives revolves around this iceberg, ignoring all those complex feelings that lie below the surface. Today, we invite you to take a plunge. Let us dive into the freezing water and get closer to what is going on deep within.
Being successful. Something that we are told to be from a noticeably early age. We often form our own opinions on what success means. For instance, when we see our father going to work each morning, coming home late tired from his job, we usually do not think much of it. But when your uncle tells you to be successful when you grow up, just like your dad, you form an idea about what success means and what it looks like. This definition is very subjective. All of us, since our childhood, have our own definition of the word success.
Success, Over the Years
Now, swim closer to that iceberg. Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths. Think back to your childhood. When was the first time you remember you wanted to be successful? What was the context? And if you can, think about who introduced that concept to you? Is your definition of success the same even today? It’s highly unlikely. It has changed significantly, today. That is the other thing about success. Our definition changes over time. It shifts and course corrects over and over. However, our core definition, the one that we learned initially, remains the same.
Our typical trajectory of success goes something like this. We want to get better grades in school when we are young. Then we want to get into better universities and colleges. The definition of success shape-shifts after getting a high-profile job. Good marriage and kids. Things continue to evolve and our definition of success changes repeatedly for years. Many times, we even live with 2-3 different definitions of success at the same time.
This is also one of the major reasons why we’ve all had the feeling of being on the hamster wheel. We chase one success after another, with no end in sight, and many failures over the years. At some point, we question the meaning of life and wonder if it even makes sense to continue chasing something we never wanted in the first place. Many call this a mid-life crisis - When it seems like we have everything (according to the society’s decision of success) and yet, we feel empty on the inside. We’ve come so far down the road of pursuing one success after another that it almost seems impossible to turn back and reconsider our lives.
But the reality is that it is never too late to reconsider our life. It is never too late to make our life our own. And setting ourselves up for success (literally) is the first and the most crucial step in that process.
And just like we learned earlier, success, in itself, is elusive and ever-changing. So, what is the point of chasing someone else’s goals all our life?
Who Decides the Meaning of Success?
So, who decides the definition of success for our lives? We all like to think that we decide it. But it is the society that usually defines what success means at various stages of our lives. We often base our sense of self-worth and our version of success on the ideals that our society imposes on us subconsciously. Think back to that childhood memory of yours. Did the definition of success come from within? Or, like many things during that age, it was an influence and confluence of the definition of success you learned from society? It’s usually the latter. We learn from the people around us.