Redefining Success

How to Have Success with Happiness and a Meaningful Life?

What does success mean to you? Do you consider yourself successful?

The Oxford Dictionary defines success as an accomplishment of an aim or purpose or an outcome of an undertaking (good/bad). Likewise, it can refer to a person or a thing that attains fame, wealth or social status.

Hence, success contains an element of comparison, winning or losing. It’s the feeling of “I did it! – Or I failed.” It comes with a timeline upon which we pursue our goals and then measure results against some yardstick.

It may also tell us how we rank in the social arena, even becoming a defining term for someone’s identity. Am I a successful person? Our need for recognition can be linked in our minds with other rewards such as social fame, power, career promotion and financial gain. It makes us feel more worthy.

No wonder “being successful” is a sought-after status in the results-oriented world where social media exposure means power.

And, whether you want the fame or not, you may feel trapped in the corporate success game. The fast-increasing burnout rates reveal the harsh reality in today’s work cultures.

One academic research identified four sources of satisfaction related to success with high-achieving professionals: achievement, happiness, significance and legacy. These four were seen contradictory and seldom experienced all at once.

"If you're deeply content all the time, what happens to your achievement? It's not there. One of the reasons you're successful is that you're not happy. Significance to others can be guided by a sense of fairness, generosity and caring, but do fairness, generosity and caring help you in your achievements?"  

Perhaps, it's time to redefine what success means to us, individually and collectively. We started to explore the idea with the following question.

What if success could align with happiness and a meaningful life – and create value for self, others and the world?

Success is generally measured as an outcome, whilst happiness is in the process. Problems show up if your happiness becomes conditional on success – be it driven by external fame or internal purpose. “If I achieve this and get that, then I’ll be happy.” With that mindset, your joy is short-lived. Much like a drug, you keep wanting more. You must begin with happiness, or you’ll never quite get there. It’s a being state.

The same is actually true with the essence of success. Your beliefs shape your experience. “I am successful” magnetizes very different events than “I am a failure.” Successful people are not those who always succeed. They are those who bounce back from a setback still believing in themselves. Thomas Edison found ten thousand ways that don’t work before he invented the light bulb. Hence, the path of success calls for effort, unwavering commitment, perseverance and resilience. And we may need to redefine failure, too. There is always a gift to be uncovered. That’s the essence of growth.

At the end of the day, how you define your success is what matters. What you aim for as your purpose directs your life and gives you a sense of meaning.

With that in mind, we had a Conscious Dialogue Session with a group of people asking them: What is Success to Me?

One observation was that people talked about inner rather than external things. Achievement of personal goals and prosperity were mentioned. Mostly, the dialogue was about fulfillment beyond achievement, such as being present, following your heart and inner guidance, connection to a higher source, loving yourself. People were also concerned about the bigger picture whereby we are connected to others and the world around us, even future generations. Contribution, being of service and helping others succeed equaled success to many.

Those ideas fall in the category of internal rather than external drivers with a strong emphasis on service. In fact, no one talked about reputation, recognition or career.

These people are not alone. A growing number of people today are looking for a more conscious lifestyle and work that aligns with their deeper values. Some choose to step out of the success race, finding new ways to define who they are and what’s their purpose. External rewards alone do not satisfy their heart’s yearning. They are seeking to contribute to the wellbeing of our entire human family.

Are you one of those who are looking for a deeper meaning?

The current lifestyle has not encouraged us to be real and authentic, to bring our whole selves to the workplace. As an outcome, many have lived in constant self-denial to fit in. One day you may awaken to realize that something is missing. The inner spark is no more there. It may feel like you’ve lost connection to your true self or just grown out of who you once were. Alternatively, it can be an external crisis that shatters your life’s safe foundations. Life has its ways to nudge us towards growth – and towards true fulfillment.

We all have some unique gift to offer to the world that needs our resources more than ever. But you can only access your greater potential when in touch with your authentic self. It calls for courage to break through not only external expectations but also your own limiting beliefs about who you are. Including the need to be accepted and loved for false reasons. Being real means being vulnerable. It’s a long path to peel the layers of our masks and reveal the real self in all magnificence.

Living an authentic purposeful life won’t necessarily lead to great external achievements. But it certainly offers constant places to stretch beyond your past limitations. On that path, any event and encounter with others may become a place of conscious growth to love unconditionally, to be present, to heal your shadows and reach your greater potential. Not forgetting to take care of your well-being. And yet, there is no failure, only learning.

The more you shift to living from the inside out, the more the external reality begins to align with your values. You don’t need to change your job or pursue a great mission in order to live a purposeful life. But most likely, that path will lead you to take on some inspiring project calling your heart. That’s a place for committed action to achieve meaningful outcomes – with an opportunity to create value for yourself, all involved and the larger world.

How would that look like and feel for you?

For Your Conscious Inner Dialogue –

  • How would you like to redefine your success?
  • Where have you not been authentic in your current way of life (and work)?
  • What gives you a sense of achievement that comes with fulfillment?
  • What gives you a sense of meaning and purpose?

Article written by Mia Aittola co-created with Dinesh Chandra. (Click the names to see profiles.)

This is the first in a series of articles on Conscious Living inspired by our Conscious Dialogue Community CallsOur gratitude goes to all who participated in co-creating the dialogue. Welcome to join our free monthly sessions! 

Join our mailing list - click: Conscious Dialogue News.

Photo by Juan Jose on Unsplash.

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