His words were powerful.
“Before, there were so many things that occupied my mind. When I learned how much time I had left, however, it became clear which things are really important. Don’t waste your time on work you don’t enjoy. It is obvious that you cannot succeed in something you don’t like”.
These were the words written by a dying 24-year-old that I stumbled upon one evening on Instagram. I re-read his words over and over again. They had cut through the noise and landed right in my heart.
He had realized something important: that success cannot come from doing work you don’t enjoy.
It might seem like something obvious. Yet, 70% of all people don’t like their jobs. That’s 7 out of 10 people! How crazy is that?!
Why do so many people spend their days doing something they don’t like?
Well, there are obvious factors such as bills to pay and stomachs to be fed. But, there’s also something else that makes us stay in unfulfilling jobs: the desire to succeed.
Today, we’re a society obsessed with success. Google the word and you’ll get over 1 billion hits. Most of us get taught that success is the formula for a good life. Success has been portrayed as the solution to all problems and the gateway to happiness. That once we achieve it, everything else will fall into place.
The Problem With Success Today
We talk a lot about achieving success, but what is the definition of it? Traditionally speaking, success has been measured by means such as money and power. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t take into account other essential parts of life such as time, health, and doing something meaningful. Also, it excludes the common side effects of success such as stress, sleep deprivation and lack of time for family and friends.
I’m not saying that traditional measures of success don’t matter. But, they’re just a tiny part of a much larger picture.
I remember admiring one woman in my previous job. She was in her mid-thirties, married with two kids and had a top position within the company. In my eyes, she was the definition of success. But, that all fell apart when she told me that her only time to rest was in the metro.
That was it! Just those 20 minutes to and from work. And if you’ve ever been to the Paris metro you know this isn’t the place to recharge your batteries.
My point is this: someone might have it all in terms of conventional success: money, power and status. But, if that success doesn’t spill over into other areas of life, can this person really be labelled as successful? More importantly, does this person feel truly successful?
Success Without Fulfillment Is the Ultimate Failure
To achieve the success we desire, we need to first understand what that means to us individually. Let’s see what two successful people in work and life say about it.
Tony Robbins, America’s #1 Life and Business Strategist, defined it as the following, “Success is doing what you want to do, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want.” He also said, “Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.”
Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, said, “In fact, at this point, success, money, and power have practically become synonymous in the minds of many. This idea of success can work— or at least appear to work— in the short term. But over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two- legged stool— you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people— very successful people— are toppling over.” She suggests adding a third measure that goes beyond the metrics of money and power, which consists of four pillars: wisdom, well-being, wonder and giving.
Success on Your Terms
To achieve success that both looks AND feels like it, you need to first define what success means to you. First, make a list of everything you consider to be part of a successful life: happiness, health, helping others, a decent income, time for family and friends etc.
Then, take out a piece of paper and make a dot in the middle of it. Make a circle around the dot, about 10 cm from it. Then split the circle into 8-10 “pie pieces”. In each “pie piece”, write each area that you consider to be part of a successful life.
Then make another dot in each pie locating where you currently are today in relation to where you want to be. The closer you are to the outside of the circle, the closer you are to your goal. Finally, draw a circle from each dot and you’ll see what areas that need your focus for you to achieve real life success.
How big is your circle? Maybe it’s small and uneven. Maybe it’s bigger than what you expected with a broader definition of success than just money and power.
Someone might have achieved great success, conventionally speaking. But, if we include the four pillars suggested by Arianna into the success metrics: wisdom, well-being, wonder and giving and someone has neither of those things, that circle of success would look more like a half circle.
Don’t Settle For Less Than What You’re Capable Of
When everything falls apart, it’s easier to see what really matters in life. Just like this 24-year old man did. But, we don’t need to wait until the end of our lives to realise what’s important. We can learn from those that are wise and kind enough to share their learnings.
Don’t settle if you haven’t found work that fulfills you yet. Don’t settle for success that isn’t on your terms. Don’t settle for a life that is less than the one you’re capable of living.
Start today and pave the way for the future you desire.
Tell me, what are your metrics of success? Share your list with us in the comments 🙂
Photo cred: Sofie Stenmark, Model: Victoria Carlsson