So, a friend recently introduced me to Arianna Huffington. Well, not literally introduced me, but sometimes it does feel that way! Arianna, was the co-founder and past editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post…..that is, until she changed her focus. And not just her career focus. A change in focus resulted in a massive change in how she was living her life. Her books, her podcast, her newsletters. All of it….SERIOUSLY CHANGING MY LIFE! Her rich Greek accent, her never ending queue of interesting interviewees, and her approach to existing and living, have all completely sucked me in and as a result, have altered small, but influential aspects of my life. From work life balance, to technology use, to the positive effects of prioritising sleep….her podcast and book ‘Thrive’, have become my go to self help book of 2019.
And amongst all of this stands one quote. A quote that hit me like a tonne of bricks. A light bulb moment that has made me take stock. That has made me step back, reflect and now, see each little decision, action and conversation through a different lens.
‘Don’t buy society’s definition of success because it’s not working for anyone.’
What’s she talking about? What is society’s definition of success? And I realised, we have created a definition of success that is measured in a never-ending upward movement. Climbing the career ladder, raising our salaries, getting a bigger, better more expensive house, getting a bigger, better more expensive car, higher test scores, higher ATAR, higher reading level. It doesn’t matter what age we are. The way society measures how successful you are, depends on how far up any particular scale you sit.
Society’s definition of success if not working for anyone.
And I’ll tell you why.
Because it’s bloody stressful! What good is climbing the career ladder, and working your way through a series of positions, each one more demanding and stressful than the other? What good is this, if you are not happy? What success are you actually achieving if you get home each night, too exhausted to enjoy your children, too stressed to snuggle with your partner, or too overworked to be able to put away the laptop? If your day to day living is burning you out and putting you in this perpetual state of busy, that we all seem to think is a badge of honour, should we really be considered successful?
And so I ask you…..
What difference would it make to the world if instead of measuring success by positions on a career ladder, by dollars, by ATAR scores and by reading levels….
We measured it in joy? In happiness? In engagement? And in enthusiasm?
What would happen to the world, if you weren’t aiming for the top, but were aiming for joy?
What would happen to the workforce, if we were all in jobs that we loved? Where instead of aiming for the next promotion, that came hand in hand with the next payrise, and the next level of stress…..we instead just aimed for the job that we loved. That we got up every morning eager for and energised by. And what if society saw that as being successful?
What would happen to education, if we measured children’s success by how much they loved learning? How much they were motivated to learn, and how much joy they experienced through being at school, through learning and through the relationships that they developed, nurtured and cultivated whilst there? Our children have the world at their fingertips. Instead of measuring how well they remember a fact or a piece of knowledge with a test score, what would happen if we saw success in how eager they were to find it out for themselves, and how excited they were when they did?
What would happen to our perception of the world if we saw the guy who works at the coffee shop and loves chatting with his regulars every morning, asking about their lives, their kids, and their families, as being just as successful as the city lawyer who loves his job. What if their success wasn’t measured by their differences in income? What if we just saw two guys who love their work and were happy in what they do. And are therefore ...successful? Surely it can be both. Surely, if both guys love what they do, experience joy and happiness in their work and life, then surely both guys are as successful as each other?
Society’s definition of success is not working for anyone. But aren’t we society? Aren’t we the ones who have the change the perception? What good is a massive salary if you are too stressed out to enjoy it? What good is an off the charts reading level in Kindergarten, if your child hates to read?
I’m keen. I’m excited by what could happen in our world if we changed the way we perceive success. If we all took a good look at what brings us joy, what enriches and enthuses us, and measured our success in life by how much space we dare to let those things take up. I just wonder what it could do.