REDEFINING WHAT SUCCESS MEANS
ALMOST everyone has an idea of who they want to be or who they perceive themselves to be. We make goals and develop habits that align with the identity we want to create for ourselves and we tie our happiness and ego boost to the attainment of those goals. If we meet them, all well and good, the better for us. The identity we want to create has been reinforced and we get the much needed boost in self esteem to pursue another goal.
Failure to meet them? Spells disaster, most especially repeated failure at what we thought we were good at and considered part of who we are or want to be. Striving to attain this image and failing, albeit repeatedly, translates to our happiness being delayed and our self esteem suffering fatal blows along the way. An identity crisis ensues, we don’t like who we are and we can’t even be who we want, we find ourselves at crossroads and most times unable to make a decision because our ego doesn’t agree with reality. Having lost everything we hoped for, the acute feeling of being inadequate sets in and joy and vitality becomes ever far away.
Even some other people, who had enjoyed streaks of success and afterwards declined become blinded by their failure once the ego was wounded. It is healthy to have ambition, to crave to achieve and accomplish but what if our cravings are tied to the wrong things, to a single goal/identity that leaves us shattered when we fail to realise it? Should we focus more on achieving a goal or more on continual progress and refinement in all aspects of our lives? I’d go with the latter. In the words of James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits, He wrote;
‘goals restrict your happiness. The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone. For years, happiness was always something for my future self to enjoy. I promised myself that once I gained twenty pounds of muscle or after my business was featured in the New York Times, then I could finally relax. Furthermore, goals create an “either-or” conflict: either you achieve your goal and are successful or you fail and you are a disappointment. You mentally box yourself into a narrow version of happiness. This is misguided. It is unlikely that your actual path through life will match the exact journey you had in mind when you set out. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.’
We should not torture ourselves by restricting our lives to a singular purpose instead we should only focus on being better than we were yesterday. Growth is not a linear process, there is always a valley of disappointment which is essential to propel us to the very top we desire to reach, therefore our identity shouldn’t be tied to goals it should be tied to constant improvement. Let us tweak our cravings to suit this new self and we will find that happiness would ensue.
Again in the words of James Clear,
‘keep your identity small, the more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you. When you cling too tightly to one identity, you become brittle. Lose that one thing and you lose yourself, the tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.’
From these I hope we sit back, re-evaluate our desires and redefine what success means to us. Life’s uncertainties are endless and so many things are beyond our control but that little sphere which we have power over, let’s beat it to a pulp and maximise our potential. The rewards are endless.
‘Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.’
– James Clear.