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The Definition of Success

The dictionary definition of success, per my quick Google search, is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” The definition of successful: “accomplishing an aim or purpose.”

Nowhere in these definitions is there any hint of money, title, power, or so many of the other Americanized assumptions of success. But if success is about accomplishing an aim or purpose, is it fair to assume that everyone’s aim or purpose is to be a rich CEO with authority? Whose checklist are you following?

I was thinking recently—before turning to the digital dictionary and back when this post was only a couple jotted down notes on my whiteboard—that I was successful in friendship.

I reflecting on how fortunate I feel to have always been surrounded by a lot of really good people who have been kind to me and believed in me and made me, truly, the best version of myself. I wouldn’t have ever said I had “set out to achieve friendship” but somehow, as I’ve stumbled through life, by all definitions, I’d say I’m pretty successful at friendship.

What if we redefined what we thought of as success? What if we built it off our own timelines and actual aspirations? That is not to say that you shouldn’t have career aspirations—but it is to say that you should make sure they are your aspirations. And that is also to say that that is only one marker for “a successful life.”

What would it look like to be successful in your love life or your non-romantic close interpersonal relationships? What would it look like to be successful in your health and physical and emotional wellbeing? In your hobbies? In your family life? In balance?

What if some days success is, at a core level, getting out of bed?

Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of someone else’s expectations. You’re allowed to make your own definition for success. You’re allowed to follow your own checklist.

So here’s to an incoming new year. May we be successful in the things that matter most.


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