Who Defines What Success Means To You?

Society loves to define things for us.  As a collective, it tries to shape and mold us to its own desires.  It dictates how white our teeth “should” be, how clean our clothes will be, and how we view what “normal” is or isn’t.  In this way, it strives to homogenize an entire planet so that we’re more easily managed and, perhaps, manipulated.

As children, we’re indoctrinated and conditioned to believe the things our families want us to believe.  These lessons form our minds to often believe the same things, in the same ways, for the same reasons.  This could be called “hive mind” or “hive conditioning.”  I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad thing.  It just is.  However, the hive never likes the rule breakers.

For some of us, we reach a pivotal moment in our development where we begin to question those so-called “norms.”  It’s a moment Oprah might describe as an “aha!” moment.  I would tend to agree.

Over the course of a lifetime, I have allowed others to define what my success “should” mean.  And I have strived and struggled mightily to fit in.  But this, like so many other “socio-normative” things, was not to be for me.

I have mentioned before that I come from a very blue-collar family.  For them, success was defined as having a good paying job with benefits, no matter what industry it was.  This stemmed from a much different work ethic and system of standards, as developed through two world wars and several other military actions in their lives.  “Be thankful for having a job at all!” was something I heard my whole life.  In my now fifth decade, it has been a very long and arduous uphill struggle for me trying to adopt that definition of success as my own.

At long last, I have discovered that perhaps it was just a guideline to be used, rather than a directive.  Because the definition of “success” we’re convinced is the only TRUE definition of the word, isn’t for everyone.  So, after too many years, I begin to redefine what my definition is based on my goals and dreams.  Where it has been “any port in a storm” mentality previously, accepting positions based solely on the monetary value it might provide me, I dig much, much deeper into my soul to determine which path to take next…one that honors me as a creative individual, as a thinking, sensitive person, and also what will enhance my humanity.

From here forward, I adopt the following statement and creed:

I am the only person who can truly define what my success will look like and how I will achieve it.  I will work hard, honor my creative spirit, and raise myself to my highest level or beyond.  I will honor and respect the creative spark in everyone, but understand that it is different for others than it is for me.  In that way, I understand there is no one “right way” in the achievement of my success.  As long as I stay true to my goal, I will not falter or fail.  

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2 thoughts on “Who Defines What Success Means To You?

  1. I hear that…my writing has won many awards, but that derailed my idea of success more than it helped…which took me many years to truly understand. Eventually I came to understand that an award is merely somebody else’s idea of what my success looks like. It’s a very difficult cycle to break sometimes. Thank you for your comment!!

  2. A timely piece as we are deep into “awards” season! I am an artist, so critiques, esp. in the academic structure, are a reality. Learning to grow a thick skin in a system of such judgments is a lifetime struggle. Being an introvert maybe contributes to the conflict of wanting to be at least “nominated” into the “category” of Best Of, but then ready to vanish behind the curtain when it comes. My best defense is to kindly ask all judges to wait outside the studio door while I’m working, then trust that quiet space inside of openness and acceptance. A great post on a familiar topic. Thank you.

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