When I was younger, as a kid, and then again in the early stages of my working career, I had a definitive view of what it meant to be successful. Back then, success to me was about "the corner office," making lots of money, being respected, and most of all, getting recognition from others.
I always felt that my success wouldn't mean anything unless other people knew about it and acknowledged it. I envisioned that corner office full of awards and certificates and people literally buzzing about how far I had come in my life. I thought I had success defined perfectly at the age of 22. And really, isn't it true that you know everything when you're 22?
As I got older, I worked my way up in the world and accomplished some extraordinary things. I joined the Army and served my country during Operation Desert Storm, I finished college, the first one in my family to do so, and I worked at a few pretty prestigious organizations. At one point in my life it all started to happen for me. I got married and had the big house in the suburbs and I scored the "corner office."
It was everything I had wanted until I realized that it wasn't what I wanted at all!
I wondered how this could have happened. I worked so hard to get to this level of success and I was miserable. Then I had a huge "aha moment." I was not actually defining success at all. I was allowing society to define success for me. I was letting everyone else, my family, my friends, the media, etc., tell me what success was supposed to look like.
That's when the truth finally came out; the corner office wasn't for me.
Today, I am redefining success by working my way out of the corner office and into my own business; a business that supports others and satisfies my soul, even if it is not yet satisfying my wallet.
I have changed my definition of success from outward appearance to inward satisfaction. Success to me is about fulfilling work, getting ahead by helping others get ahead, and feeling that my life has purpose. It's no longer about a big house, nice car, fancy clothes, and expensive lunches. I no longer try to impress others with what I own instead, I work to help others with what I know.
The biggest lesson I've learned about success is that you cannot let others define it for you. You must establish your own definition of success and then create a life that supports it. Once you begin to do this in your own life, you start to feel free. You start to focus on the things that are truly important to you and the things that aren't important slowly start to drift away.
Please remember that you are the only person living your life. Your happiness, health, wealth, success, and status are completely up to you. Decide what it is you want out of life and go get it. How will you know that you've been successful? You'll feel it, I promise.