Why your definition of success may be wrong.

 Plus 5 great quotes that can help you find a better one.  

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” Chuck Palahniuk (author of “The Fight Club.”)

See the clip from the movie HERE

Why your definition of success may be wrong

The things we own wind up owning us

North America has a broken model of success.

Look around, and you will see that our society has a very externally focussed perspective of success. We are trained to equate our value as people with money, power, fame and accomplishments. As a result we often try to demonstrate our intrinsic value as people through displays of material possessions.

Media is a huge driver behind our misaligned perspective of success. The average North American is exposed to up to 5,000 advertisements per day. These advertisements have a single purpose; to separate you from your money.

We see hundreds of young, beautiful and successful people buying things that apparently add great happiness to their lives. We see these bright attractive people having fun and enjoying their lives in new cars, new clothes and new homes. They are having a great time contacting their attractive friends on sleek new phones. They watch exciting programs on their new televisions while tasty foods prepared with brand new appliances. (All purchased with easy to attain credit that offers low monthly payments.)

With our constant exposure to all of this fun and glamour it is not wonder we want to be like all the people we see in the commercials. For years I have worked with various marketing professionals who talked about using advertisements in various forms to “drive” consumer behaviour.

And guess what? All the advertising works!! The billions of dollars that get spent on advertisements create trillions of dollars in revenues.

All of this marketing creates a need in the consumer. For a large percentage of people in society the drive to “look” successful can be so strong that they take on debt to just so they can look good for others. As the old saying goes “we end up spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know”.

One group of researchers who have extensively studied this subject say that often an obsession with material possessions starts with “social deficits”. In other words we learn to cherish relationships with “things” because we are lonely and don’t have the right relationships with “people”. You can read the article from Time here.

At the end of it all the new clothes, cars, houses and smartphones we buy usually don’t make us feel happier or more successful for very long. There is often an increase in self-satisfaction when we first get to show off our new toys, but that little rush fades quickly and we are left with the bills we owe. In fact, it is our desire to look successful for other people that pulls many of us into a trap of living pay cheque to pay cheque. Our spending outpaces our income and we end up working longer and harder just to pay the bills, which can result in even further loneliness.

In times of economic challenge, the very people who most strongly identified success with material possessions can be the most adversely impacted. They often see many of their possessions ripped away when the pay cheques stop rolling in. As a result they see their credit scores and self-esteem left in tatters.

The good in all of this is that, as a result of being faced with the economic downturn (such as we are currently facing in Alberta) some people will redefine their perspective of success and, as a result, find themselves in a much happier place overall.

Following are some definitions of success that I think are worthy of consideration:

  • Acclaimed author Maya Angelou said; “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it,”

  • Winston Churchill said; “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm,”

  • Deepak Chopra said; “Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals,”

  • Thomas Edison said; “Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,”

  • Finally Steven Covey said; “If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience; you will find your definition of success.”

My personal learning was that I needed to spend the time and energy to figure out what that success really meant for me and then I needed to find the internal motivation and inspiration in order to pursue my own personal definition of prosperity.

Once I created my personal definition of success I was able to go out and make it happen.

I now own my own successful consulting business, where I make enough money to ensure that I lead a very comfortable lifestyle.

Having a business allows me to work on my terms. I get to choose when I work, where I work, how hard I work and how often I work.

This allows me to create the perfect work-life balance where I can contribute to causes I care about and still have time and energy to spend with friends and family. I still have time and energy to pursue my personal development, my health and my hobbies.

Defining and then pursuing my personal vision of success has allowed me to life the life I was always meant to.

What about you? Have you thought about your definition of success? Are you letting external displays of material possession demonstrate your inner worth as a person?

How is that working for you?

Are you ready to begin looking for a better way to define success?

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Thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!!

3 proven ways to get out of your rut

Joe Grainger

Joe Grainger is a business and personal optimization expert from Alberta, Canada. With over 30 years of leadership experience his work is centred on helping businesses and individuals achieve their version of success. Joe is a well-known blogger, author and key-note speaker.