Body, Mind & Spirit

How to Define Success—On Your Own Terms

Published on August 15, 2018

Article by Christina Huntington for Bodhi Tree

Whenever I ask my meditation students to define society’s version of success, it always breaks down to this simple equation: fame + fortune = a successful person. While this description is fitting for our celebrity-obsessed culture, those of us who don’t necessarily dream of becoming household names may find that we have a slightly different definition, which usually goes something like this: get a good job + marry an attractive spouse + buy a nice house + have a few kids + do all the right stuff as everyone else = a successful happily-ever-after.

The problem with both of these models is that they’re pretty vague concepts that place our sense of fulfillment, self-worth and personal value in external circumstances. If getting more nice stuff actually made people happier, then all the celebrities of the world would be shining pillars of light and love, radiating their inner peace to all they come across. But each day’s headlines blasting the latest celeb with spiraling bad behavior is undeniable evidence that perhaps everything we were told about worldly success isn’t exactly accurate. So then, what is the true meaning of success?

I can’t actually answer that for you. No one can. Defining success is an extremely personal process because we are each our own unique individuals. We’ve all heard the snowflake analogy, but it’s true—no two of us are exactly alike. With the small stuff in life, we have no problem claiming this uniqueness. We take the time to make sure that our new clothes fit us perfectly, so why do we have a tendency to check out when it comes to life’s bigger concepts, allowing society’s definition to dictate what drives us? Not unlike your favorite jeans, life is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Why Achieving Goals = Success

So now you might be thinking, I’m not that materialistic. Success for me isn’t about things; it’s about achieving my goals and dreams in life. However, even the achievement-driven model falls short on being able to deliver lasting fulfillment. Right now, take a second to think about your greatest achievement in life so far—a goal that you wanted, went after and very successfully accomplished. Now ask yourself this: Am I still happy, right now, because of it? Did that joy last and carry me on for each and every day afterward?

For most of us, the answer is sadly, no. We realize that even achieving our dreams can become just another (amazing) thing to check off the never-ending to-do list. No matter what we do, it’s never enough because our innate human nature always pushes us forward to do more, be more. Life doesn’t let us off the hook to rest on one glorious achievement alone, or even several of them. So it follows that even the attainment of our most precious personal goals can spur us into an ever-consumptive way of living, always looking for our next fix to try to satiate our cravings for lasting fulfillment, happiness, and a sense of self-worth that we can never quite seem to find.

If this feels like a no-win situation, don’t worry. There is a better way. In the same manner that we can crop and hem our latest denim find, we can reclaim the idea of success and tailor it to fit exactly who we are as individuals. We just need to start looking in the right places and asking better questions. Of course, the very first place to look is within ourselves—the only place we can ever find our own truth, our own worth and our own joy.

So if you’re ready and willing, take a quiet meditation moment now to discover how you can begin to define success on your own terms and start living a life of personal fulfillment that matters to you.

How To Redefine Success: A Meditation

Yes, meditation can help. Here’s how:

Sit in a quiet place and close your eyes. Take a few deep, slow breaths until you feel your energy begin to settle in. Place all of your focus and attention in the center of your chest. This is your energetic heart space (aka your inner GPS). Gently ask yourself the following questions internally and then silently wait to hear the answers come back to you before moving on to the next one:

  1. What does success really mean to me?
  2. How will I know when I am experiencing success? What does it feel like?
  3. When have I felt most successful in my life?
  4. What are the big goals I want to achieve in my lifetime? Are those my goals, or someone else’s? Just check in with this.
  5. If I wanted to feel successful in my day-to-day life, how would I spend my time each day? Who am I with? How do I behave? How do I feel about myself, about other people, about the world and my place in it?
  6. What would make me feel inspired, fulfilled and proud of how I dedicate my time, talents and resources?
  7. From my deepest heart and soul, what do I most want for myself and my life?

You can do this meditation whenever you feel the need for a little soul check-in. I like to do it at least once a year. And although my “big life goals” might change as I reach new achievements, my main markers for success tend to stay the same. Success for me is now distinguished by how I feel as I go about my daily life, not just on my actions alone. If I wake up in the morning feeling excited about my day, proud of what I am contributing to the world and the people around me, balanced in work and play, loved and loving, inspired, passionate and connected to nature, community and my own heart…that is my epitome of success. I know that I am being my best self and living my best life.

Whatever your own definition is, always remember that no one life fits all. So don’t be afraid to make any necessary alterations to create your perfect fit. No one else can wear your life as well as you can. Trust me, it looks great on you!

Read How to Create a Meditation Sanctuary at Home.

Published on: August 15, 2018

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