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Redefining Success

Success: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.


Do you ever sit and think about success? Like really sit and contemplate what success means for you and eventually let that thought consume you and send you into an existential crisis spiral?? Just me?? Cool.


I am constantly thinking about what success means to me. I’m constantly striving to succeed. To achieve something. To make something out of my life. To be sure people are proud of me. To “make it” and finally find unlimited happiness and contentment. To cross the finish line.


So here I am. I’m an adult person with a full-time job, I have great friends, I live alone in my own apartment. I’ve made it. I’ve succeeded… right? So why am I still sitting here wanting for more? Why do I still feel lost sometimes? Where’s that feeling of completion that I was promised?


Do you all remember growing up and planning out all the incredible things you’re going to do with your life? When I would bike to the local shopping mall with my friends, I would see older kids walking around with their keys in hand and think “I will be so cool when I’m old enough to drive.” Once I was driving, I saw kids going off to college and I’d think “wow, going away to school feels so old and sophisticated, I can’t wait till it’s my turn.” Once I was in college, it was “I can’t imagine being a real adult, but when I am I’ll feel so old and accomplished.” Now that I am an actual adult it’s “I will feel fulfilled and accomplished when I get married or have a kid or own a house.”


“I will officially make it when X, Y, or Z happens. I just have to get to that point.”


I just have to get through this season of life and the next season will be better. I just have to reach this next milestone, and I’ll be content. I just need this thing and then I’ll finally be happy.


They keep moving the finish line, don’t they?


For a really long time, I’ve been fighting to make it to that finish line. I’ve been trying so hard to get to a place in my life where I can feel that ultimate sense of success. And recently, I’ve started to realize that I’ve been chasing a total myth. And as I’ve had tunnel vision on that ultimate goal, I’ve been quick to pass over all the little accomplishments I’ve acquired along the way. Plus, once I reach a level of success and feel content, I get bored. I start itching for a new goal. I start seeking out fresh opportunities and what I can conquer next.


“Making it” is a myth. You’re never going to accomplish ultimate success, because life really isn’t that kind of game.


See, at first, I wanted life to be like an easy game. Like Go Fish or Solitaire. You play. You win. The game ends. You’re done. You get to enjoy your victory for the rest of time. But life is much more like Chutes and Ladders where you reach a new milestone and feel on top of the world only to go down a chute a few spaces later. Or life can be like Monopoly where you’re constantly circling the board without an end in sight. Or maybe life is like a video game where you level up only to realize there’s a new level you’re now determined to beat.


At first, this was extremely frustrating to me. I was promised that if I won, I could finally rest. Am I always going to be wanting for more?? If I’m never going to “make it,” if I’m never going to win or cross that ultimate finish line, what is the point? If success is fleeting, why has society put this crazy pressure on us to be successful?


Well, society, I think it’s about time we revisit that definition.


Success: the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose. The accomplishment of an aim. Not the aim. Not the ultimate purpose, but a purpose.


We all have little moments of fulfilling our purpose or reaching goals every single day. Maybe that right there is what we should really be celebrating.


I think it’s about damn time we restructure the idea of success. Because life isn’t about hitting an ultimate end goal, it’s about meeting milestones and seeing little miracles every step of the way.


You’re never going to “make it,” so why not enjoy where you are?


Pictured: A happy, successful woman.

When they asked “what do you want to be when you grow up,” my answer always used to be, “I want to be successful.” But I realize now that success comes in more colors, shades, shapes, and sizes than I possibly could have imagined. I’ve also realized that failure isn’t the antithesis to success, but rather a stepping stone to achievement.


A successful, wholehearted, fulfilled life is going to look different for everyone. I’m 25, living alone, fully-employed, and single. I am successful. Someone else may be 25, married with 2 kids, and a stay-at-home parent. They are successful. Another person may be getting their degree at age 40 or finally leaving a toxic relationship. Guess what? Still successful.


As I’ve gotten older my answer has changed as I learn more about myself and settle into what I want from my life. So now, when they ask me, “what do you want to be when you grow up,” my answer is simple. I want to be happy.


I’ve been so confused because all this time I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting for the day where I feel like I’ve “made it,” and I find my ultimate purpose. But I have breath in my lungs and love in my life which means I “made it” a hell of a long time ago. I'm happy overall. And what a wonderful thing that is to celebrate.


Success: the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose.


If you got out of bed this morning, that’s an accomplishment. You are successful. If you got a promotion today or went out on a first date even though you were scared, that’s an accomplishment. You are successful. If you made a big decision for your life and restructured your chosen purpose, that’s a huge accomplishment. You are successful.


There are going to be ups and downs in your life. There are going to be days where you feel like an inspired success, there are going to be days where you feel like a huge failure. You still have so much to give the world no matter what stage of life you’re in.


You don’t have to “make it” to be valuable or valued. I’ll run along and support you the whole race, not just at the finish line. You’re successful in the here and now, even if you don’t feel like it and even if you still have so much more left to do.


I leave you with this challenge. Start learning how to celebrate the small victories rather than waiting for the ultimate success. Accept and grow where you are rather than constantly trying to get somewhere else. Find your purpose in the mundane as well as the grand.


Believe me, this is going to be a challenge for me as well. But I’m done letting society, other people, or comparison dictate when I get to feel like I've made something of my life. Because where I am right now is good enough for me to feel happy and fulfilled. To feel like I've truly succeeded.


The best way to break the cycle is to love ourselves fiercely and celebrate the little things we're proud of every day. So what success are you going to celebrate today?


All my love,

ACB


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