Don’t feel successful? You’ve probably been taking the wrong approach to defining success for yourself.
Success. It’s one of those words that has a sting to it. It’s so definitive: either you’re successful or you’re not.
And the world of Facebook and Instagram has only made matters worse. We’re constantly inundated with reminders of just how The Secret to Happiness: 5 Habits of Successful People everyone else is. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to how we stack up to the rest of the world.
We’re the generation who grew up on success. We’re more educated than our parents’ generation. We’re expected to do more. We’ve idolized 20-something billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker. We’ve watched Justin Bieber become an international sensation from YouTube videos and Perez Hilton build an empire off a free blog.
Opportunity surrounds us, and it’s terrifying. Sometimes it seems like you’re the only one who hasn’t figured it out yet — the only one who still hasn’t reached success.
But here are three reasons why you’ve actually been struggling to achieve success — and what you can do about it: (Click here to tweet these reasons.)
1. You haven’t defined success for yourself (yet)
Millennials are the generation who redefined everything, from relationships to gender roles. We’ve even redefined technology’s role in our lives. So why can’t we rethink how we define success?
We’re all striving for lives we don’t even want in the first place — lives we think we’re supposed to have. The well-paying office job, the prestigious title, the heaps of money. But maybe you’d rather pick up odd jobs and travel the world. Or maybe you’d rather start your own business. Or maybe you’d rather work a few part-time jobs to have a schedule you want.
When you get honest with yourself and figure out what Graduating Soon? The Advice You Need to Be Successful in Life actually means to you, you might realize that you don’t feel successful because you’ve been striving for the wrong things. And only you can judge if you’re successful, because only you define success for yourself.
What do you want success to look like? Feel like? Even sound like? When you know what you want the end result to look like, you have a blueprint for how to get there.
2. You’re putting yourself in the wrong context
Growing up, we learned that all of our abilities fall into one of two boxes: strengths and weaknesses.
And we have one major strategy for life, to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.
But the question is — who’s judging which are which?
I have a friend who was a receptionist for years and hated her job. She was always playing on social media and taking random breaks from designing brochures for her company. Finally, she got up the nerve to quit her job.
In a matter of months, without any formal training, she became one of the best-known graphic designers in the country. She spends her days advising on social media strategy, designing graphics, and setting her own hours.
What may be a weakness in one context can be a strength in another.
You can’t be successful if you’re constantly putting yourself in unfulfilling jobs or toxic relationships that don’t play to your strengths. You have to find the context that is going to help you thrive and make you feel successful.
3. You’re trying to please everybody
You want to impress your boss, advance your career, make your parents proud, find work you love, hang out with your friends, make good money, and be in the perfect relationship all at once. That’s not just a huge juggling act — it’s actually impossible. Inevitably, you’re going to anger or disappoint somebody somewhere in there. And that’s OK.
If you’re trying to be How to Stop Playing the Comparison Game, then you can’t possibly be something special to anyone. Disagreeing with and displeasing people — whether they be friends, significant others, parents, or even occasionally bosses — is a sign that you are moving more and more into your own authenticity.
And the stronger you put your own priorities forward, the more likely you are to live the life that you actually want — not the one everyone else wants for you.
Success is really about having the courage to accept yourself and live the life that feels successful to you. If you can define it on your own terms, put yourself in a context that fits, and be willing to put yourself first every once in a while, then you can create any type of success you want.
And then even Instagram has nothing on you.
Mike Iamele is the author of Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms (Conari Press 2015), which takes a critical look at the dysfunctional pressures of modern success and leads readers through a powerful journey to create a new kind of success on their own terms.