Success is an illusion

Used under the creatice commons licence - Photo by: SalFalko

Used under the creatice commons licence – Photo by: SalFalko

I feel the need to clarify a few things in order to make this a true statement. I am not defining success an achievement, not as a result of work or a task that you successfully completed. I am talking about the society’s definition of success. However a lot of people have it all. (And you know right of the start, what I mean with “have it all”) So my definition of success is linked to happiness. Why do I link happiness to success? And why is it still an illusion? Would happy people by my definition be a success? No. I am going to take a walk inside your brain, to find the definition of success. And I need to point out to you, that it is all about perception of the mind.

Test one: Generalizations.
Farmer, banker, fisherman, lumberjack, secretary, hairdresser, bus driver, police officer and a baker.

I am pretty sure that you made pictures in your mind at the speed of lightning. Most likely you had two women and the rest was men? Our mind creates images based on our experience. We have an amygdala in our mind. The amygdala is not that easy to picture, so it is supposed to be of the size of an almond. This special brain task force is an expert at jumping to conclusions. What kind of car do these people drive? What are their houses like? How do you define their success? You have all these images stored in your amygdala ready to pop at an instance.

The generalized superhuman.

We now know how the brain works. Now imagine everybody else around you that have success?
– A successful marriage (This is Tom)
– Perfect talented kids (This is Angela’s kids)
– A great job and it must pay a heap of money (Janice has  a great career)
– A lot of spare time (Unemployed Kent)
– They have a boat (Will and Joan)
– Great exciting vacations (Travelling Mac)
– Lots of friends (Mark)
– Time for their kids (Jenny and Sam)

These are the people that we have around us. Some of them have a part of society’s definition of success. But our mind put these people together to one superhuman that has it all.

We do not see their debts, their arguments, the kids on rampage, their frustrations and loneliness. And none of these people are necessary happy. But our superhuman that we melted and formed together in our amygdala is very happy. So why is this bad for you? Because you might have more than most and still feel like a failure because you are so tired of chasing an illusion. Your definition of success is an illusion because your brain is playing tricks on you.

What do you have? What do you want?

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.” – Zig Ziglar

Success would be a meaningless word in a world where nobody would see it. So it is all about showing off? And is that really important? Or is your own happiness important? Can we create our own definition of success by saying what we have already achieved? Can we have a success even if we are unemployed, broke and divorced? Connect success to small tasks and goals; remove the complete imaginary definition of success. Connect the word success to tasks that can be measured. And finally accept that defeat or failure is a learning experience and does not define you as a loser. So what do you want? Well hold it a minute. Before you chose what you want, remember to prioritize. For a very long time man has been the natural provider for the family, times are changing. But again our amygdala is playing games on us. How many men scarified the happiness of their families to become successful in their work and careers?

Now let the amygdala take you back to the 1950’s men. What did they do when they came home from work? They ate dinner made by their stay at home wife. They delegated most of raising children to the mom. The really successful men had a pretty wife on their arm that would rather kick her feet on the sofa and eat a box of chocolate. We have a more equal picture today but we have a distorted view of success and the old fashioned successful politician or Wall Street mogul had a house and home support system. Now however we have a problem with women. Ouch do not kill me just yet. I have seen so many women (and men) chasing the illusion of doing a volunteer success in their community, creating a political career, having success at work, and raising four children and big child they are married to. The perfect home, the perfect marriage, the perfect community engagement and they need to be wonderful bakers too. And why have I met them? Because they are burned out and needed some coaching.
So is the glass ceiling and illusion too? I think so, because you can’t have all your throttles jerked up to full speed at once. This goes for both men and women. You need to accept some clutter in your house if you want to spend all your time writing that success novel. You need to neglect your children and your spouse to have success at both work and politics. So it is all about priorities. What do you want? I am not saying that it is impossible, there is some superhuman that manage to run their life on full throttle. However they might trade their prolonged life with an early heart attack.

I hope I am provoking a bit now. And that is the intention too. I want you to think about what is important to you.

Score card: How bad do you want success in these areas?
Career 1-10
Family 1-10
Politics 1-10
Community work 1-10
Clean house 1-10
Health 1-10
Finances 1-10
Travelling 1-10
Friends 1-10
Education and reading 1-10

But you get only 60 points to distribute. Your total score can’t be larger than 60.

Full throttle creates burnouts, and I have never seen someone burned out and happy at once. I could have cleaned my kitchen now, but I chose to write this instead. I want you to have freedom of choice but at the same time we need to accept the consequences of our choices. I recently had some success on the stock market, with a small placement of money. I decided to trade in that success and use my profit on downhill skis for me and my son, because teaching him to ski and spending time with him in the hills have more value for me. I can probably work 12 hours a day, and just see my son when I tuck him to bed and when I wake him up in the morning. I could probably be fit and work out 2 hours a day. I could follow my passion for politics or buy a more expensive car. It is all about choice.

Create your own success plan, but make sure that it is realistic and not based on the common illusion of success. And remember time changes, so at different stages of your life, you can change the levelers in each area for any given period of time.

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