We’re in the middle of a success crisis. The conventional routes to success have completely dried up. We’re graduating college without job opportunities. We’re overqualified for underpaid work. There’s simply not enough security to hold down the same job for 20 or 30 years like our parents did. Not to mention escalating student loans, evaporated social security, and the lasting effects of a recession.
But even those of us who have managed to build a steady career are still eluded by success. We do it right. We do everything right. We get the right internships and jobs. Network with all the right people. Put in our time. Pay our dues. And expect to be rewarded with the pot at the end of the rainbow—the money, fame, and power that’s supposed to transform us into the people we want to be.
And we still never reach success.
The truth is that we’ve been force-fed society’s definition of success for so long that we don’t even question it. We strive for money, fame, and power because it’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s what’s supposed to make us happy. But we’ll never be happy once we reach it if it’s never what we wanted in the first place.
We millennials pride ourselves on redefining everything—relationships, gender dynamics, technology, even fashion. But, when it comes to success, we’re still living with an outdated definition. And working towards someone else’s definition of success will never make us happy.
The real reason we’re not successful is that we’re playing by someone else’s rules.
We’re judging ourselves against someone else’s metrics. So we keep missing the mark because it’s not what’s really important to us.
For some people, success means travel. And spending a year traveling around the world doing odd-jobs is more important than a prestigious career. For others, success means expressing yourself. And it’s more important to write a blog that shares your views with the world. And for others still, success means making an impact and changing lives. And no amount of fame in the world can replace that.
Who’s to say that someone with a $1 million salary is more successful than a struggling actor, living out his or her dream? Who’s to say that getting to wear sweatpants all day is any less successful than showing up in a suit?
The point is that we have a unique opportunity today to define and create the type of success we really want—the one that’s going to actually make us happy. In the days when Justin Bieber can become a multi-million dollar sensation from YouTube videos and anyone with laptop can start a company, there are infinite tools to empower us to create success on our own terms. Never before has success been available to so many people.
But we can’t judge our success according to anyone else’s rules. We have to know who we are. We have to know what we want. We have to define success for ourselves and then match our efforts up against that metric—not anyone else’s.
The real reason you’re not successful is because you haven’t defined success for yourself.
You haven’t laid out exactly what success means to you. Because, once you do that, you’ve given yourself a clear roadmap to go accomplish your dreams.
The great thing about success is that it’s a personal journey. You’re the only person who can create it for yourself. And you’re the only person who can decide if you’ve achieved it or not.
Enough already. Create success on your own terms.
Mike Iamele is author of the forthcoming book Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms (Conari Press 2015). He specializes in helping entrepreneurs redefine and create success on their own terms to turn their passions into thriving businesses. After recovering from a debilitating illness, Mike gave up his high-powered public relations career to find his own version of love, success, and happiness. As a regular contributor to national publications, as well as through his popular weekday success blog, Mike has encouraged millions of people to reject society’s blanket definition and create success for themselves.
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