A Tough Pill to Swallow: Redefining Success

What is your definition of success? When you end each day, each week, and each year how do you determine it is successful? Most people, including myself, probably say one’s success is defined by how well they do at work. In today’s dog eat dog world, professional success is in the spotlight every single day. There is almost always someone who wins an award or reaches a great milestone in their career that the world feels the need to broadcast. However, more so than that, the world lives, breathes, and thrives off of putting professional failures in the spotlight. I think people spend more of their lives downgrading and belittling someone’s success than they do embracing it and celebrating it.

With all that said, though, there is so much more to life than money, fame, and fortune. Therefore, why do we capitalize on it so much? To put it simply—because we are greedy, selfish human beings. We always want more. There is no such thing as being content with little or even much in today’s world. The world, especially the United States, says more is always better! Strive for more. Always try to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. Yes, there is some truth to that. But, it should be taken with a very small grain of salt.

Instead of focusing on professional success, it is time we learn to define success in other outlets and ways. For example, for the longest time, I thought having a job would validate who I was as a person. I was so focused on trying to be nearly perfect in my work-life that I began to ignore my emotional, spiritual, and mental life. As much as I would like to deny it, I am quite a subjective, emotionally driven person—at least in the heat of the moment. When responding to tough or trying situations, my first instinct is to respond emotionally. Now, why does this matter in a successful job? It matters because when I am not emotional balanced—if I do not have the capacity to respond in a calm way to a stressful situation—then I cannot be fully efficient at my job. I would characterize myself as someone who easily gets mentally distracted, especially if I have something emotionally taxing or difficult to process. Why is that important in my work life? Well, I struggle separating my personal life from my work. A tough personal problem that I do not have the power to change while at work can affect my entire work day: I am not as focused, I am not as driven, and I make careless mistakes. The point is—I am not mentally at peace. I have not reached mental success. For me, mental success is the ability to compartmentalize my life when necessary. I am emotionally and mentally healthy or effective when I am able to differentiate my present issues from the present task to be completed. It is when I jumble the two that I am no longer efficient and reliable.

Now, that isn’t to say that good, positive personal situations cannot effect my work habits—because they do. It is in our human nature to reflect our personal lives in our work somehow. That is not always bad, but it is something to be weary of. For example, most college students perform poorly academically when emotionally or mentally draining situations are the frontal focus of their lives. It is natural to be distracted in areas that require a lot of stamina when storms of life come.

All in all, we have a warped view of success. It should not always be the number of dollar signs that define our success in life. That often leads to depression and not feeling good enough. Personally, I believe I am not ever fully successful until I can maturely and peacefully deal with the storms of my life. In the time that I have not had a job, I have slowly and painfully come to the realization that my lack of or presence of a great job cannot and should not define me. It does not how successful I am; if I cannot walk into my office fully prepared and alert, able to give all the problems I cannot fix at the present moment to Jesus, then I am not successful. No matter how many great remedial tasks I accomplish for a boss, I am still not successful. I need all three components, no doubt about it. Talk about a tough pill to swallow.




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