Merriam-Webster defines success as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame,” and unfortunately because this is what Merriam- Webster defines success as, it seems like growing up that’s what many of us were taught to believe. Even if you were lucky enough to have a family that placed an emphasis on success defined by happiness, I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard Merriam-Webster’s definition of success in other areas of your life. At some point in your schooling you probably ran across a teacher that stressed the importance of his or her students finding a “practical” job. Having a job as an artist or writer wasn’t likely to give you wealth, respect, or fame, but a job as an engineer or lawyer just might. You may have walked around your college campus and witnessed people turn their noses up at the kids majoring in theater or dance just because it wasn’t a “practical” major that would bring them success.
We don’t only find Merriam-Webster’s definition of success in our schools. This message is also just as prevalent in our media. As you turn on your TV to watch your favorite Thursday night drama you will see Webster’s definition. As you sit down and listen to the lyrics of your favorite songs on your iPod, you are also being exposed to a definition of success that is defined by the amount of money you have, the type of clothes you wear, or how much fame you have.
We are taught that by having these material possessions, the respect of others, and fame we can have happiness, but that’s not always the case. Someone can have all the money in the world and still wake up everyday hating life. You may have the respect of everyone in the world, but are still unhappy with your life because you don’t have the respect of the one person that matters the most. You. There are celebrities out there who are adored and worshiped by people around the world, but who are unhappy with their lives. They plaster on a fake smile while they walk down the red carpet and do interviews, all in an attempt to mask the pain that they feel deep inside. These people may be successful by Merriam-Webster’s standards, but it hasn’t led them to a life of happiness.
With all these instances of Merriam-Webster’s definition of success plaguing our everyday lives, it’s hard to think of success as anything but wealth, respect or fame. It may be difficult to think of success and experience it in a non-traditional way, but it’s not impossible. Positive thinker, I dare you to try and look at success in a different way. I challenge you to flip the script.
Instead of drawing your happiness from the tangible things in life and opinions of others, draw it from yourself. Things like money and fame can be snatched away from you in the blink of an eye and when these things that you’ve worked your entire life striving for are taken from you what will you have left? If you’ve spent your entire life trying to achieve happiness based upon Merriam-Webster’s definition of success, then the answer to that question is: nothing.
However, if you live a life where you wake up each and everyday a little bit happier than you were the day before then you can still have success. It may not be the Merriam-Webster’s definition of success that you want to have, but it will be a kind of success that you actually need to experience. You may not have wealth in terms of an excess amount of money or material goods, but you will have a wealth of happiness, and that can be just as valuable, if not more valuable than a fancy car or an expensive watch. You may lose the respect of others by choosing to avoid Merriam-Webster’s definition of success, but you will have gained a new sense of self-respect. You can wake up every morning and look at yourself in the mirror and be happy that you have the respect of the person that’s looking right back at you. You may not have adoring fans from every part of the globe, but you can be a star to the people in your life that actually matter the most to you.
Remember positive thinker:
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.” – Albert Schweitzer