OPINION

Treat success as a process, not an end game

KEY: The truth is that there's no single definition of success, and it's important to remember it's a journey not a destination.
KEY: The truth is that there's no single definition of success, and it's important to remember it's a journey not a destination.

Success is a fickle thing. We all have an image in our heads about what success looks like and this enables us to recognise it in our own plans and achievements and those of others.

However, many of us fall into the trap of judging others based on our own concept of what success looks like.

Would it totally blow your mind if I told you there is no single definition of success?

What looks like success to you might not be what I would consider success, and vice versa. It's not having the world, it's not even reaching the pinnacle of your career pathway, although these are certainly commonly held beliefs.

We often confuse success with what we perceive to be evidence of that success - mansions, fast cars, yachts and fat bank accounts. But this assumes that our success can only be measured by monetary gain and this is not the case.

Our concept of success is tied very closely to our goals - in life and in our jobs. If we don't have goals, how can we recognise when we succeed at achieving them?

We must therefore understand that success is subjective. One person might be considered by others to be highly successful because of the size of their garage and the number of properties they own, but they might not share that belief through their own experience of their work.

Perhaps they didn't close that deal they were working on, perhaps their fortune isn't continuing to grow, maybe their staff retention rates are low or their family life suffers due to their work commitments.

It's next to impossible to create a yard stick for measuring the success of others - it is an intrinsic realisation, not an extrinsic one. It's not something we are informed about, it's something we feel.

Success is a mirage, a constant motivator, the carrot dangling from the stick. As we strive to achieve our goals and succeed in doing so, we set new goals and resume the journey in pursuit of continued success.

Our PM Scott Morrison infamously said the harder you work, the more money you earn, giving this as a reason for giving the "hard working" rich elite a tax break.

I don't doubt that they work hard, but can it be argued that they are more successful than a nurse who improves clinical practice on their ward and subsequently saves lives?

Or a teacher who finds a way to help children with learning difficulties and gift them with the tools to navigate their own futures? Or a police officer who arrests criminals to keep the rest of us safe? An artist who creates beauty for us to experience and feel? Or a comedian who makes us laugh so hard we forget all of our worries for a couple of hours and just live in the moment? Is money more important than all of those things? Is year on year profit growth?

Success comes in many different forms. It can be a dollar in the bank - and there's nothing wrong with that - but we seem to be so obsessed with this form of materialistic evidence of success that we forget to look for and strive for the type of success that is personal to us, to our sense of personal purpose. I think perhaps the most important thing to remember with regards to success is that it's not an end game, despite most of us seeing it that way.

As young, ambitious people we often believe that there is a marker to aim at and when it's reached, we will recognise that we have now arrived at this place called "success" we've all read about. But it's not a destination. Success is a mirage, a constant motivator, the carrot dangling from the stick. As we strive to achieve our goals and succeed in doing so, we set new goals and resume the journey in pursuit of continued success.

We are driven to succeed, we learn from our failures and we know that there will always be something more for us to achieve, another mountain to climb and another challenge face.

Misunderstanding success as a universally defined construct causes much tension in many relationships when one person is not considered to be ambitious or driven enough. However building an understanding of each other's purpose in life can help you to better understand their values and concept of success.

As Albert Schweitzer said: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au