I think society has identified success as a means to an end. But being successful is not an endgame. We often look too far into the future and care too much about keeping up with everyone else. We get so caught up in climbing the social ladder of success that we forget to stop and give ourselves recognition for our everyday ‘small successes’.
To me, success has never been a physical thing that I can put on display for others, but rather a feeling of recognizing the strengths, capabilities and efforts that I have put into something during the process. This feeling is what fuels my self-confidence and motivates me to continue to thrive for future success in all aspects of my life.
I used to define myself as successful based on my report cards or scores on a test, driven to tirelessly work to achieve a certain ‘acceptable grade’. Looking back, I wish I could have told myself that success is not always defined by the outcome, but more so by what I would learn throughout the process. To put this into perspective, I would end my school years with the ‘acceptable’ grades I worked hard for, yet, I wasn’t recognizing all of the knowledge I absorbed in the process. Knowledge is power, and to acquire knowledge and experience is what will assist you in all endeavours through life.
Fast forward, I still feel as though putting my best efforts into everything I do remains a priority of mine, as I believe setting goals comes along with hard work, but what I deem equally as important is the take-away. Am I able to apply what I learned outside of school? Can I help others around me succeed based on my own experience of learning? Am I able to harness my skill set to take on new challenges? I proved these things to be true right here at Queens through extracurricular participation. I was given the opportunity to channel my knowledge to create visible change in the community and to positively impact the people I had the pleasure of working with. This understanding of continuous improvement has allowed me to foster a positive relationship with my own abilities and has given me the courage to strive for success in all spheres of life.
Since COVID, I have managed to step away from a rigid success mentality and simplify my life, holding tight onto what is of the utmost importance to me and really appreciate the little ‘underrated’ things that make me successful. For one, being a kind, passionate and loving person has to count for something, right? My ability to take care of my health. Making my bed every morning. Taking the risk to apply for exchange. Battling and overcoming disordered behaviours. Finishing my first month of a very scary job! Coming to terms with the fact that I have NO idea what I want to do 3 years from now. All of these things make me successful and no one can tell me otherwise. When we begin to give ourselves more pats on the back for the small successes that we achieve on a day-to-day basis, the more we contribute to our overall purpose, happiness, motivation and self-fulfillment. Success is not one singular checkpoint that we get to one day, but it is a ripple effect of all the things that have filled us with moments of pride, accomplishment and happiness; the more successes we celebrate, the more likely we are to strive for future successes
To bring happiness into the picture, there is this grand illusion, among other illusions our society has curated, that equates the so-called term ‘success’ with happiness. The illusion is a long stretched-out pathway with a sign that says: “when you get there, then you will be happy”. Yet there is no THERE. As a sign in my family home says, and the most basic mom purchase of all time that is probably from Walmart: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” So, as cliché as that might sound, find peace in that. Start your own ripple effect by acknowledging your little moments of victory each and every day.
It’s easier said than done because we tend to dream and wish for big breakthrough moments very far into the future. I love to dream, don’t get me wrong. It fills me with hope and aspiration for everything I will hopefully have the opportunity to do one day. I also have dreams that provide me with a sense of gratitude for the now because I could never achieve the larger dreams if I didn’t practice being grateful for where I am now and for what I am able to achieve every day.
What one must remember is that one day, maybe we will reach that point in the distance that we’ve been dreaming of. That thing that we think will be the be-all-end-all. The thing that screams success and we’re happy. Yet, that happiness and sense of achievement might not last for long as there is a good chance that we will start thinking of the next thing we want to achieve; to acquire. In North America, we are programmed to think that way. That every success is merely a checkpoint on the road of life and as many of us do, we tend to go from checkpoint to checkpoint. What about everything in between? You have to embrace your experiences along the winding road as well. Life is a continuum, ever-changing and mirrors your mindset as it evolves. Hold on to even the smallest moments of self-fulfillment and joy. They sometimes matter the most. The positive mindset that you continue to build will assist you in future successes to come.
In honour of this article, I asked some of my fellow MUSE team members to answer some insightful and thought-provoking questions. Their answers didn’t just make me smile but can be a good reminder for us all. They support the idea that success comes in all different shapes and sizes, and will look different for each and every individual:
What does the word success mean to you? How do you define success?
“Long term, deep-rooted happiness”
“Success, to me, means a genuine feeling of accomplishment and happiness. I define success by how proud and/or joyful I feel after a task is completed.”
“Success to me is achieving a goal I’ve set, whether consciously or unconsciously”
What is your biggest success in life?
“Being satisfied with my own lot in life – not wanting to be anyone other than me”
“My biggest success in life is probably taking care of my mental and physical health. I feel most successful when I’m proud of how well I am taking care of my mind and body. If those two things fall out of balance, it’s hard to accomplish much else.”
“I spent 4 years trying to make my high school soccer team and finally made it in my grade 12 year.”
Have you ever felt pressured to live up to certain expectations that society has created surrounding success?
“Absolutely. I often feel like I’m not living up to societal expectations of financial success, physical beauty, and the speed at which I should be completing things.”
“All the time”
What makes you successful on a day-to-day basis?
“Consistency, integrity, and gratitude”
“I try to make an attainable to-do list and then if I am able to complete that list by the days end, I feel successful. This list usually includes tasks for school, health, and general errands.”
“Keeping my daily routine and ending the day in the best mood I can”
Do you think that no success is too small? If so, why?
“Yeah – every small victory adds up to a whole. No true success is born from nothing. The process of small wins and advances are what brings one perceivable and substantial improvements in their lives.”
“Yes! Because they all build on one another!”
“No success is too small. Every win is still a win whether 1-0 or 5-0”
Some of the keywords that stand out to me in these comments include: attainable, mood, taking care of, genuine feeling, satisfied, gratitude, small wins, build on one another, and my favourite, every win is a win whether 1-0 or 5-0. You are your own game-master. Not society, not those who tell you what your resume should say, not the number of checks on your to-do list. You are in control of your own wins, no matter how big or small. A win can be a win if you choose to see it as one. It is up to you to decide. In the end, and in my opinion, anyway, I believe success to be pure, wholehearted happiness and that can happen in tiny, incremental moments, and in the most unlikely of situations. Embrace it.
Trust your intuition. Set goals for yourself that you know are attainable and maybe ones that may not seem attainable at the moment. Remind yourself that everything is cumulative. Remind yourself that you are already there and be present in the moment. Appreciate the now. Respect the dreams and ambitions of those around you. You will be happy that you did.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: RAUL SORIA FOR TED