Success: How Do You Define It? Is It Defining You?

“What do you do for a living?”

That seems to be everyone’s go to icebreaker, as if my response is going to tell you everything you need to know about who I am. There are a handful of reasons for why I do not like this question, but here are my top 3:

1.     My job does not define me as a person

2.     Everyone’s definition of success varies

3.     What I do, and who I am, couldn’t possibly be answered together, because one is how I support myself, while the other literally does everything else.

This is how the question should be asked:

            “What do you do for a living, on top of being a living, breathing human with their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings?”

Now, that is a question I wouldn’t mind answering.

I am not here to discuss what it is that you do for a living; I am here to talk about success, and why I think it’s important for us to get honest about how we define what that even means. If you are not careful, it is easy to allow success to get in our heads, and convince us that we must do more to be more, but at what cost? At what point, do we see that certain kinds of success represent the opposite of happiness? Depending on how you define success, are you allowing it to define you as a person?

If you were to ask me how I would define success, I would tell you,

“Success is how we carry ourselves throughout the day; how we are perceived by those around us. Success allows you to support yourself, and your basic needs, but I think one truly becomes successful when they start acquiring things that they can’t see, or touch. It is an understanding of many things, and the ability to see all sides of an argument. I believe success begins the second we start living our lives for ourselves, and doing things in life that give us great fulfillment.”

So, how do you define it? Is there a price tag attached to your definition? What are you going to have to sacrifice to reach the level of success that you want? We mustn’t get confused the meanings behind success and happiness, because the biggest mistake people make, is thinking that happiness stems from success, but it is the opposite that stands true. Success stems from happiness.      

Now, don’t get me wrong, money is a great motivator when it comes to success, and I can see why it is intriguing to want to achieve success in that way, but there is a very fine line between money being a motivator, and money being the driver in your life. You should treat money as a passenger. It is something that you need to a certain extent, and something you should keep around, but money should never be in charge of keeping, what you know and love, safe. When you allow that kind of success to steer your decisions, and be the deciding factor in your life, you will notice that hard sacrifices will have to be made because at the end of the day, money can only take you so far.

Nowadays, when people ask me my least favorite question, “What do you do for a living?”, I do my best to answer it as if they just asked me, “What do you do that allows you to wake up every morning with purpose?” It may not be what generates my income, but I choose to talk about the things that I do in my free time that make life worth living. Success, to me, has become more about the everyday little successes that we experience, that propel us forward day by day. I do not allow my job to define me as who I am, because I am so much more than someone who works to survive. The 40 hours a week I spend working is just that. What’s more important to me is how I spend the remainder of the 128 hours that week contains.

If you have found a career or job that pays your bills, gives you fulfillment, and provides you with happiness, well then my hats off to you, because you are in the small percentage of people in this world that love what they do. It is often hard to find balance between happiness and success, so when you are able to do both, that is both impressive, and hard to come by.

Therefore, we must find other ways to generate happiness in our lives. We should have passions, hobbies, and other purposes in this world besides clocking in, clocking out, rinse, and repeat. There is more to life than just waiting for the weekends, and it is possible to do what you love outside of what it is that you do.

I think it all comes down to how we define success for OURSELVES, and what our answer is when we are asked, “What do you do for a living?”

So, I must ask you,

How do you define success?


-Megan Lawrence