Success is a subtle thing.
It does’t announce itself or make some grand, flamboyant entrance. You don’t just wake up one day and “feel” successful, declaring to the world “hey, I’ve made it! Suck on that, world!”.
Success is a gradual process that’s as much mental as it is material. Being successful isn’t about what you have; it’s about experiencing your reality and viewing the world differently than you did before.
So, if it isn’t about material wealth, how do you know when you’ve made it in life?
You spend less time worrying about what others think of you
To be clear, I don’t mean that you’re successful just because you’ve started wearing sweatpants to work and have Cheetos stuck in your beard.
But the funny thing about success is that it tends to cause the right kind of people to gravitate towards you, while repelling the wrong kind. People who are actually invested in your wellbeing and are able to share in your victories will naturally want to be in your company, and those who are intimidated by your obvious wellbeing will soon show their true colors through their actions and general attitude towards you.
And it won’t bother you one bit, because you are at peace with yourself and with the world. Even if you are forced by circumstances to be in close proximity of the people who would like nothing more than to see you fail, your state of mental equilibrium makes you indifferent to their perception of you. Also, the fact that they are unable to break your stride drives them absolutely nuts!
Problems become challenges, and challenges become opportunities
As I said in the intro, success is about viewing the world in a unique way. You might not be able to change a situation, but you can change the way you approach it.
When we see a problem, our first response is generally avoidance or retreat. That’s just the way we are conditioned. To the human mind, the word “problem” implies that the battle has already been lost.
Now, consider the word “challenge”. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s much more neutral, even positive? When we hear “challenge”, we think climbing Kilimanjaro or watching an entire season of Game of Thrones in a single sitting. It’s going to require perseverance and stamina, but it can be done.
A successful person is able to take that line of thinking even further by turning a challenge into an opportunity. In my mind, the word “opportunity” means winning. It means that, no matter the situation, you have the skills to turn it around so that it’s in your favor.
You admire people, but you’re never jealous of them
Everyone has someone that they look up to. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that having a role model is a requirement for being successful.
For me, it’s my late dad, a man who, even when faced with financial hardships and failing health, always had a smile on his face and in his heart. Charles Mijnhardt was able to laugh even when he could hardly breathe and, in spite of the fact that people let him down so many times, he never became bitter or wallowed in self-pity. I’d like to think that he died smiling, because that’s how I choose to remember him.
My point is, there’s nothing wrong with looking up to a person or persons. What sets a successful person apart is that he or she doesn’t want what their role model has, but they are motivated by that person’s success to write their own success story.
You’re feeding the cheerleader more often
I know, I know. The heading sounds like the plot of a teens-in-peril movie in which some crazed killer has a high school cheerleader chained up in his basement.
Relax, I’m not referring to the latest installment of the Scream franchise.
As I explained in this article, all people have positive thoughts and all people have negative thoughts. I have yet to meet the person who only has one or the other.
I refer to positive, uplifting thoughts as the “cheerleader”, while I envisage thoughts of doubt and guilt as a cranky, antisocial gym teacher a la Mr Woodcock.
A successful person gives the cheerleader a lot more attention than they do the gym teacher, until eventually the gym teacher’s voice is little more than a feeble, insignificant squeak.
I find it very sad that success has become synonymous with material wealth, when really it’s much more personal than that. In my experience, success isn’t measured by the number on some bank statement. Rather, it’s measured by the number of people who turn to you for guidance, inspiration and comfort.