What is success?

As finals approach, people graduate and another chapter (or school year) comes to a close, I thought it would be time to word vomit my feelings on success. It’s a word that turns into a buzzword this time of year. People slowly start to panic over whether their plans for the next chapter will deem them successful. Whether their summer job, paid internship, prestigious unpaid internship or volunteer opportunity will lead them to be seen as accomplished.

To say that this time of year, where the weather changes from abnormal to a somewhat stable 70 degrees, people grow tense, stressed and half versions of themselves is an understatement. As one person posts a status on Facebook outlining their prestigious new job offer, another person half-heartedly writes congratulations and then quickly checks every job engine they have subscribed to and applies to three more jobs that don’t really interest them. It’s a never ending cycle of competing against the people we are supposed to be rooting for. While we like that our friends are doing amazing things, we find ourselves blindsided by the anger and jealousy we feel when our friend’s accomplishments outweigh our own.

The irony of it all is that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is actually doing. My friend’s new accomplishment does not outshine or dim anything that I am working towards. Our only job is this world is to be ourselves, we don’t need to view others accomplishments in relation to our own and vise-versa. We are so damn scared that someone else will reach success before we do, that we blindly scramble to “catch up to them” by often losing sight of our own life vision and values. 

Speaking of success, what does that word actually mean? 

We so often look at success as a goal completed in the future rather than what is happening in the present. I despise this. While I won’t “yuck another else’s yum” we have to remember as a generation to prioritize authenticity when making our own life decisions. As a society that deems success as being thirty, having a big house and a six-figure job that doesn’t mean that is what success looks like for everyone. 

We all don’t need to suffer through unpaid internships and settle for a job in a cubicle for ten hours a day if we don’t want to. We also don’t need to deem success as something in ten years, success can happen in the littlest of moments.

I often wonder…What if we saw success as an intermediate goal? What if I was deemed successful by posting a blog post even if no one reads it? What if success could be running five miles when we thought we could only run two? What if success was affording to travel to somewhere new?

What if we focused our energy on the little successes rather than constantly aiming to achieve something in the future that we don’t even know we want?

I think if we found success in the little things, we would all be a little bit less stressed and a lot happier with ourselves.

Lately, I have become obsessed with the idea of a minimal lifestyle (check out the documentary The Minimalists). While I still have a closet full of clothes that I don’t wear and too many black booties that look identical, I love the idea of having less and spending more time on experiences and people rather than things.

So, as my birthday gift to myself, I am making a pledge to find success in the adventures that make up life and strive for happiness now rather than strive for having things later. Instead of doing what society tells me I need to do to become successful (hello unpaid internships and lackluster administrative work), I am going to do what I need to do to find happiness (hello hiking, writing, adventuring and taking underpaid jobs that do good for the world). I am going to intentionally allow myself to find success now and worry less about achieving this unrealistic expectation of success later.

So, as summer comes and a new chapter begins I urge you to reevaluate how you define success.  Make a pledge, create a vision board, or write an authentic list of what success means to you, and then go and be intentional about obtaining it.

At the end of the day, the word success is up for interpretation. If you want to graduate college, work at a hostel in Europe and explore a part of the world that is completely new to you? Do that. If you want to become a yoga instructor? Do that. If you want to become an activist and start your own non-profit out of nothing? Do that.

Life doesn’t need to be a formula, and life certainly does not need to be boring. We don’t have time to be following formulas (no thank you!). We certainly don’t have time to be settling for anything that doesn’t match our own individual vision of what life should be, of what happiness should be. 

So, it’s okay to not succumb to the societal norms that correlate money with success or the definition that success is found from following the traditional path.

It’s not easy to be authentic in this world. It actually is hard, really hard. It takes strength, courage and one amazing support system but it is possible and it is worth it.

Okay, my rant is now over. BUT if you were waiting for a sign or someone to give you permission to “do you” this summer or this year, or the next five years, here it is. Go, be authentic, be crazy, be unique, take risks, do you, and remember that the only definition of success you need to achieve is your own.



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