Everyone wants success and happiness. Look around your home, work or on the streets. The people you see are working in the pursuit of success and happiness.

But they rarely stop to ask: “Whose success are we chasing?”

Everyone has some idea of what success is — even if they haven’t articulated it. If they haven’t taken the time to answer this question and never created their own definition of success, then where did they inherit their definition of success?

A default definition of success is formed while growing up — from parents, teachers, friends, culture or other social relationships. Whether success is equated with money, a brand of car, a big house, a happy family or running a marathon, it probably has more to do with social conditioning than a conscious choice.

The Pitfalls of Not Defining Success

When people chase success (isn’t everyone?) without defining what it means to them, there is a risk of falling into the “more is better” trap. Believing “more is better” leads to comparisons to others, and life never feels good enough. It is living life like a dog chasing its tail.

While chasing success can drive people to work hard and produce results, it can lead to a constant feeling of “not having enough” or “not being enough.” It can also lead to anxiety, stress and missing or not being present in simple (not trivial) moments like eating, sleeping, relaxing or just having a conversation.

There is a huge cost of living life believing that more (of anything and everything) is better. People often realize the pitfalls of living life this way only when they are faced with a soul-sucking emptiness or a health or relationship problem, even when they have amassed a lot of wealth or success on the outside.

The Power of Defining Success

Creating a definition of success is a creative act of leadership — just like painting or writing. Everyone has the freedom to decide what success and happiness means to them. The freedom to define “a boundary of enough” — enough money, possessions, time, play, rest and entertainment. The freedom to change these boundaries (or the definition of success) at any time.

Defining success means knowing the trade-offs of pursuing that success. It includes acknowledging that we can have anything — but not everything.

Acknowledging the power of choice in creating a definition of success is a critical leadership act — not just for ourselves but also for our teams, our families and, most importantly, our quality of life.

Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden once said: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

The Connection to Your Well-being

Gallup surveys over the past decade have clearly shown that most people are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Moreover, COVID-19 and the ensuing Great Resignation have made employees reconsider their priorities in the face of mortality.

COVID-19 and the move to remote work has brought the issues of workplace stress and well-being to the forefront. Now employees are creating their own definition of success and the kind of life they want to live. This has led to people quitting their job, if their current management is not providing what they want.

Defining success has always been a choice. The current pandemic has just made it more evident. Well-being and quality of life is an essential element of what “success” is — and not just an added benefit of success and achievements.

This is the era of The Great Discontent, and it is a tremendous opportunity to exercise the power of choice, create a new definition of success and reclaim well-being and happiness.

In Conclusion

Are you happy? Are you successful?

If the answer is no, then it is time to make some changes. It starts with creating a definition of success, of enough and of happiness. This new definition will act as an anchor to every action in the future. It will provide the confidence you need to follow your own path instead of the one that others have chosen.

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