In this article, we will be diving into a topic that we rarely give ourselves permission to examine: how we define our success. Traditionally, society has taught us that success is determined by how much we make, how famous we are, or what our job title is. We constantly measure ourselves against our peers and family members in these areas, and create an internal narrative of self worth based on our findings. But what if we were to look at our success in a completely different light? What if we broke the “rules” and defined our success by other measures?
What is success?
The concept of “success” encompasses a broad spectrum of meanings that can be both cultural, personal, and different for each of us as we go through chapters of our life. In our society, early success is most often seen as meeting an external measurable milestone be it straight A’s in school, acceptance into an Ivy League University, or a gold medal in a sports competition. Later, it becomes connected to a sense of security and “secondary satisfactions”— job title, salary, and material possessions. These measures of success subconsciously meet our needs to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the future unknowns (ours in retirement or our children’s). None of these aspects of success are inherently wrong—from Mountain Trek’s perspective, true health is about balance— but if success is found only through striving and self-improvement, it leaves little time to find success in the “primary satisfactions”—connection to others and all manifestations of life and the joy and tranquility that come with that focus. But it’s not all that easy to move from valuing secondary satisfactions to primary ones, as there are hurdles along the way. The biggest obstacle to the success of living our life fully with presence to other people and the natural world is fear. Survival fear is our number one block to being at peace with what is.
How we came to value money and possessions
Throughout the majority of our human past, tribal people would meet their survival needs (and fears) by working together. The success of one was shared with the whole. Many hunting and gathering peoples did not have a concept or the language for “mine”, or “scarcity”. To our historic ancenstors, there was always “enough”, even if some times were more meager than others. Once humans started agriculture and the ownership of property, cattle and other people, success became less dependent on how we interacted cooperatively for successful survival, but rather, how we could dominate the land, our enemies, and how we could accumulate and store our food and currency. Success did rely on a sense of working together, but it became organized in a hierarchical way. Some people became more successful than others and competition for resources became organized and socially rewarded with title and status. Moving forward some 6,000-8,000 years we entered the industrial revolution and success became even more individually centric as the serfs left the aristocrat’s lands for work in the factories in the city. People left their village, their extended families and moved into working class neighborhoods with strangers. Alone, survival fears increased and success became more competitively based at work. Work hours went from seasonally adjusted 4-6 hours a day with time for family, rest and contemplation, to 12-hour shifts in poor working and living conditions. Competing amongst others to climb the ladder to be winners like their former landlords added to the concept that owning more meant more comfort and security, and attempted to mask the loss of our primary needs for connection, and peace. Fast forward to today, and we have the advertised culture of external success telling us through every device that we can find success and happiness as individuals working on average 10-12 hour days and taking care of our own families away from extended family support and our connection to the natural world. Yet, we have the highest rate of stress, anxiety and depression of any culture or previous time period. Have we really become more successful as human beings?
what other measures of success can we consider?
So what other measures of success can we consider to bring balance to our striving and accumulation-based externally-rewarded societal focus? Here are a few other perspectives to ponder:
- A study of hospice nurses discovered that the #1 regret that dying patients had was that failed to have the courage to live a life true to themselves rather than what others expected of them.
- Deepak Chopra says “By letting go of attachment to the illusion of security or the ‘known’, we enter the field of possibilities including, enoughness, happiness, and fulfillment.”
- A traditional Japanese perspective is that mastery can lead to success. Skill and technique are honed through selfless practice until an integration flow occurs whereby the practitioner is the medium for the “unity of all” to be given to others. The ensuing state of tranquility is the ultimate measure of success.
- Success comes from understanding the difference between need and want.
- We feel successful doing our best… no matter what the result.
- Recognize your abundance by being grateful for our many blessings everyday.
- Being able to give is success. Be it resources, knowledge, or a smile.
- A balanced life is a successful life. Work with passions, personal needs with boundaries… mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs attended to.
- Success is leaving the world a better place than we inherited for our grandchildren and beyond.
How do I change my definition of Success?
Additionally, here are some considerations to help you on your journey to lifelong success for work and non-work:
- Commit to learning, and healing in order to move from a ‘fear and scarcity’ fixed mindset towards a growth mindset. Embrace ‘change’, and practice letting go of control by expanding your window of tolerance by taking resourced risks.
- Practice Goal setting. Clarify your vision of your life’s needs, set long and short term goals and then anchor actionable objectives, strategies and habits. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Resourced and Time anchored steps to your life’s purpose.
- Be present, flexible, and patient in order to build resilience. Rigidity, perfectionism, and performance based striving does not allow for life’s constant changes… and leads to worry, anxiety, and disappointment.
- Resource your physical needs with nutrification, fuel, movement, deep sleep, and detoxification.
- Resource your mental needs with de-stressing and ‘state shifting’ practices (breath, mindfulness, meditation, nature immersion, gratitude), and exercise your intuition to help make decisions.
- Resource your emotional needs by cultivating positive relationships for support, as success is not a one person journey. Build trust, communicate non-violently, create a team for friendship, inspiration, and encouragement.
Do what brings you joy, peace and love and the rest will follow. A rich life is one that is full of savoured experiences.
What is Mountain Trek?
Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out below: