How do we define success? Is it obtaining a certain income level? Owning a house? Holding down a steady job? Finding true love? Or is it feeling a sense of happiness when you wake up each morning? Discovering inspiration, something that “makes you tick”?

Arguably, success is individual. I would define success as being at peace with where you are. Successful living, to me, would be feeling ok with doing my best, not needing perfection and external reinforcement. When I think about it, overall success would be, essentially, feeling proud of small successes. Put in this way, greater success is equal to winning the war by taking pride in and learning from the battles. Furthermore, success would be not taking great discouragement when a battle is not won. Focusing in on the larger picture, instead of nit-picking on the details, would be a great success.

Obviously, conventional success is not always true success. An individual occupying a high-powered corporate job, living in a penthouse suite and driving a ferrari might have achieved conventional, superficial success. But without the accompanying satisfaction and happiness, is success truly won? This isn’t to say that conventional success can’t equal true success, more that the two are not necessarily equal.

In my 20 years I’ve had brushes with conventional success. A straight A student in high school, I successfully obtained a full scholarship to further my education. My success continued for the next two years, as I maintained my grades and acted the model student, reading textbooks cover to cover whether I truly enjoyed the literature or not. There was nothing wrong with what I was doing, and I was arguably on the road to obtain further success. Behind the shield of success, however, life was crumbling down around me. Despite, and perhaps because of, my material success, I was unsuccessful in loving myself. As cliché as it sounds, the failure to look inward and question what was best for me made the other more successful aspects of my life meaningless. The desire to achieve success- and perfection- in every sense was wearing me down.

I’ve always been proud of my drive to succeed. But there comes a point when driving forward and pressing onward at all costs chips away at the person underneath. So, during one long run on the treadmill, tears in my eyes and pain coursing through my body, I began to wonder who I was trying to please. Why was I trying to be perfect, to be successful? In my efforts to achieve, I was failing myself. Achieving meant throwing all of my energy into a dream that someone else (who this “someone” is I’m still not sure) saw as acceptable.

I’m slowly coming to realize that success is not a shiny trophy with my name on it, nor a paycheck with 6 digits. Success isn’t even measurable, because its very definition varies from person to person. What I deem as success might not work for anyone else. In fact, what I deem as success right now might not work for me in five years. Its something to come to terms with, this variable. Coming to terms with change and uncertainty will be a great success of its own.

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