Webster’s Definition of Success:
- (noun) the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.
A couple of weeks ago during a heart to heart with one of my friends we got on the topic of relationships. After talking to me about a girl he had been dating he started asking questions about the guy I was seeing.
“Tell me about him, what’s he like?”
“Oh, he’s great. Super successful, tall, handsome, has a great job, a nice car, sweet apartment. He really seems to really have it all.”
I hated myself for saying what I said before I even finished saying it. My friend (who is also an avid traveler) just looked and me said, “So that’s your definition of success?”
A few short months ago I was wandering around the world with a backpack. And that’s it. My idea of success was arriving to a new place safely, having enough money in my bank account to buy lunch and making a new friend from a foreign country. How is it that in such a short amount of time my perception of “success” has changed so drastically?
Since this chat with my friend, I’ve been putting some serious thought into what my definition of success is. I say my because we’re all going to have our own interpretation of this incredibly dense word. What bothers me the most about this topic is how my mindset was so easily influenced by our culture in such a short amount of time. We’re constantly being taught that if we want to amount to anything in the world we better have a good-paying job, a nice car and a spouse by our side by age 30. Even Webster relates success with money, admiration and fame. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with attaining these things. Deep down we all want nice things. We want people to like us. We want to feel loved. But doesn’t this leave a lot of people out? What about the single parent who’s raising children on their own? Or the aspiring artist that works at Walmart so he can pay his bills but still do what he loves? These people don’t quite meet the criteria for our idea of success but does this mean that they’re not successful?
After looking up Webster’s definition of success and finding myself feeling somewhat discouraged, I did what any other person my age would do – look up the definition on Urban Dictionary. Here’s what I found:
Successful: A term used to describe someone who has finally freed him/herself from personal evaluation.
Now that is much more like it. We’re always comparing ourselves to others. We ALL do it. “So and so has such a good job,” “I wish I could afford a house like they have,” “Her boyfriend is the best, I wish I had a guy like that.” It’s never ending! Why do we do this to ourselves?! It’s bad enough that society evaluates us based on such materialistic things, but we do it to ourselves, too.
At the end of the day, I’ve found one thing to be true – Comparison is a losing game. We’re all going to go through different seasons in our lives. Some seasons we’ll be on top and some seasons we’ll need to swallow our pride and ask for help. It’s all part of life. But in such an influential world, it’s vital that we define our own interpretation of success and stick to it. If your passion is teaching but you know you’ll never be rich, be a teacher. If you want to travel the world but that means not having an apartment or a home, travel the world. If your definition of happiness is playing your guitar for $8/hour at a local pub, go play your heart out.
And always remember, having money is nice but having happiness is better.