Success is a word that has been glorified over the last 10-20 years. We see media pushing a blanket definition of success which follows a similar type of formula; a lot of money, fast cars, luxury clothes/watches, extravagant holidays, something like that. As I move into the later stages of my 20s I am becoming more and more aware of the narratives that broader society is pushing through the media and those that are following without any conscious thought or attribution from themselves. One thing I wish I knew when I was in my early 20s was getting clear on what success means to me and how to get clear on my definition of what success means to me.
Table of Contents:
- Be Aware Of Echo Chambers
- Trust Your Gut And Your Instincts
- Pain + Reflection = Progress
- Start With What Your Definition Of Success IS NOT
Be Aware Of Echo Chambers
An echo chamber is where you are in a closed environment (physical and virtual) that amplifies or reinforces communication or opinions that follow a certain trend with no outside rebuttal.
It took my a while to realise it but echo chambers exist all around us. Some common ones are our family, our primary school, high school, university and now the workplace. This realisation helped me to see reality for what it truly was versus the reality that was pushed by each echo chamber. This was only possible by being exposed to so many different environments and talking to different people from different ages groups, backgrounds and up bringings. In echo chambers like school, certain things are valued (like marks and grades) and other things are not (i.e. emotional intelligence) and as a child or developing human, positive reinforcement is constantly in effect; get good grades, praise from teachers and parents, get more good grades, etc. etc. The reverse is true for non-valued skills where positive punishment is involved, crying is shun upon, people make fun of you for having emotions, less emotions are expressed, repeat.
This is just a couple of examples of echo chambers that could exist. The reason why I’m bringing this up is by actively thinking about whether the thoughts that I have are mine versus what is common or regularly spoken about in the echo chamber has allowed me to think for myself and determine whether the values of the chamber or group were the same values I personally had or that was something I was being exposed to and have assumed through proximity.
Takeaway: Being aware that echo chambers exist throughout life enables an awareness that allows you to stay true to your own values and not the values that have been pushed onto you through proximity of exposure.
Trust Your Gut And Your Instincts
When participating (consciously or sub-consciously) in echo chambers for a prolonged time, you start to drown your own personal voice out. This doesn’t happen like an on-off switch but rather it happens slowly over time where you decide to listen to the group over your own. Until I realised that there was an inner voice guiding me on what the right thing to do was, I kept following the group without question or second-thought. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it but when faced with a decision, your conscience appears and you can feel or intuit what the right thing to do is. The hard part is deciding to accept that voice or going with the other voices that aren’t your own.
Takeaway: Pay attention to your inner voice when making decisions, this is your conscious guiding you to what you think is the best choice.
Pain + Reflection = Progress
This formula is a bit over-simplified but the point to takeaway is we, as people, are struggling through every day (experiencing pain) and we strive to make our lives better. Pain becomes progress when we reflect on our experiences, what happens, how you responded, the thought patterns and actions you took, things you could do better. This is why people always recommend journalling or keeping a diary and this is one of the reasons why I enjoy writing content so much. By reflecting on situations and lessons that I’ve learned, it helps me articulate what I’m thinking and manifest a logical sequence of events but also keep the parts that are valuable but also remove the parts that aren’t. One thing that has helped me a lot is actively thinking about problems I’m facing in a hot shower. There are studies that show the conditions of a hot shower stimulate the body to produce new thoughts and connect existing thoughts that previously weren’t linked. This can be incredibly power when reflecting on situations. Oh and keep a note pad and pen close by because once that hot shower turns off, the thoughts kinda just fade and its pretty hard to get back.
Start With What Your Definition Of Success IS NOT
So how do you find your definition of success? If only it was so easy. I can’t tell you what the answer is but what I can do is give you a place to start. Everyone has different experiences in life which mean different things to each person; things you liked, didn’t like, emotions that these experiences gave you. One thing that worked for me is going through these situations and asking myself what I thought about each one. After a while you start to see patterns on things you liked and more importantly things you didn’t like. When deciding on my career, I realised that I hated doing repetitive tasks and enjoyed doing conceptual thinking way more and I naturally moved away from what I hated and leaned into the things I enjoyed. The same goes for hobbies, friends and relationships. When coming up with your definition, by removing the things you don’t like or the definitions that aren’t yours, it leaves you with the possibilities of what success does look like.