What does success mean to you? While for many people the first thing that comes to mind might be doing well in a career, it is a word that can have many different meanings. A great deal of the advice about the topic is written as though everyone wants to run a successful startup or rise to the top in a corporation, but what if that isn’t your dream?
People have goals that revolve around hobbies, family or a spiritual practice. They aim to be better friends or better swimmers or better at poker. The conventional advice, which often includes exhortations to do things like make lists, get up early and network, is not always useful for these more self-defined paths. Below are some other habits to cultivate that will help you achieve more authentic and meaningful success in life.
Define It for Yourself
One of the biggest mistakes that people make in life is letting others define what success means. This often results in pursuing what your peers or your family think is important and not what you truly value. Therefore, the first step on this journey has to be defining the word for yourself. This counts as a habit because it is something you should do repeatedly. It is always worthwhile to go back over your values and think about whether what you are striving for is aligned with your values and if it is not, how it can be.
Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean rejecting conventional markers of success. Maybe you do want to be an entrepreneur or climb a corporate ladder. Perhaps one of your core values is creating a stable financial base for your family that they can count on throughout their lives. It is not that there is anything wrong with those particular goals but that you need to consider what it is that you are really after. You might want to build an organic garden that you eat from throughout most of the year or devote your time to persuading people to support a particular social or political cause you support. You might want to focus on being an excellent homeschooling parent or a terrific sibling. What matters is that it is something you have chosen and not something another person has chosen for you.
Organize Your Finances
It’s easy enough to say that money doesn’t matter, but you need money to keep a roof over your head and to eat. You need it to fulfil your basic needs as well as for more extravagant things: gifts for your family or buying the things you need to support the pastimes that you love. However, money is also a distraction. A disorganized financial life is a barrier to success in a number of ways.
Therefore, sitting down from time to time and taking a good look at your finances and how you can make the most of them is important. Maybe this means meeting with a financial planner, or maybe it just means opening up an app or a budget spreadsheet and figuring out where you can save a little more. For example, you might take a look at your student loans. Maybe your monthly payments are feeling a little burdensome and you’re wondering if there is anything you can do about that. You might be able to refinance them with a private lender, and this could cost you less in interest and lower your monthly payment. A student loan refinance calculator is available here that can give you an idea of what your savings might be.
Some people take drastic steps to reduce their spending. For example, although homeownership is generally considered something to strive for, some people do it for a while and decide the hassle, commitment and cost is simply not worth it and go back to being renters. Deciding that you are better suited a 600 square foot studio apartment instead of a three-bedroom house is a good example of a time when conventional markers of success do not suit everyone.
In a similar spirit to organizing your finances, making your life simpler helps you prioritize and thus takes away some of the barriers to success. Some people enjoy leading complicated lives, but even those people could probably benefit from simplifying certain areas. Maybe you love having a career that is full of intrigue and high-stakes negotiation but you don’t want to worry about what you’re going to have for dinner each night, so you sign up for a meal planning and delivery service. Looks for hacks and tools that can make things easier for you, and don’t hesitate to just walk away from unnecessary complications.
Recognize Its Ephemeral Nature
The very nature of success as a concept is one that implies it is just out of reach. It’s human nature to be perpetually dissatisfied with where we are. There are a few lucky contented people in the world, but most of us are always pushing for something more, even if that something more is as small as improving a cooking skill or being a better friend. Few people sit back and declare that they have pretty much improved about as much as they think they can and there’s nothing else they would like to add to their life.
There are three things you should keep in mind regarding this tendency. First, you should recognize that you may often feel that you aren’t making any progress. This is because as you get closer to your goal, you tend to shift the posts forward. Keeping a journal or some kind of chart, even if it’s just a few words jotted on a calendar, can help you look back and see how far you’ve come. Second, you should regularly evaluate where you are and where you hope to go next. This will help to keep things in perspective and help you keep moving forward. Third, you should realize that over time, the things you are striving for are likely to change. Your priorities will shift. You are not obligated to keep slogging toward a goal you made five months or five years ago just because it was something you used to want.