It’s My Life – Don’t Tell Me How To Live It

When you think about success, what images pop into your head?

Now ask yourself, where did those images come from?

Your definition of success should be just that: your definition!

So many people have told me a definition of success that is based on everyone’s opinion except their own.  Here’s the thing, no one can tell you what your version of success should look like.  You parents can’t tell you; your friends can’t tell you; your teachers can’t tell you; the media and celebrities certainly can’t tell you – it is 100%, completely and absolutely up to you!

This is the good news/bad news part:

It’s great news that you get to create your own definition of success, but the bad news is that it may not be as easy as snapping your fingers.  Have you ever really considered what your version of success may look like?  Does it involve travel, money, living in a certain neighborhood, having a certain job, driving a certain car?  Or does it deal more with the people around you: making them proud, earning their respect, helping them to become better people?  Or does it involve your relationship with yourself: what you see when you look in the mirror, how you feel when you think about your actions throughout the day, sleeping well at night because you are comfortable with your actions?  Or is it something else?

As you create and update your own personal definition of success, here are a few pieces of advice that sadly, I learned the hard way!

  1. Don’t make the mistake of comparing your life to the lives of everyone else!  Most people don’t post full truths on social media. They usually post an edited, often dramatized, photoshopped, embellishment of reality that will entice their followers to like or favorite or share.  The actual cold hard truth of day to day life just isn’t always that exciting.  Yet with social media, we have the chance to create a distorted reality that is more exciting and more compelling that actual reality.  Once we start trying to compare our real life with the distorted realities that we see all around us, we start to think that there is some secret to success, to life, to happiness and that we must have been absent on the day that this lesson was taught in school.  Enjoy social media, enjoy celebrity gossip, but DON’T use it as a measuring stick for your own happiness.  Here’s an internet quote to support this: “What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.”  Thank you to Pinterest for that one!
  2. Remember to look at the positive along with the negative.  Don’t just focus on how far you still have yet to go, focus on how far along your journey you have come.  When thinking about success, consider all of the things that you have earned, that you have accomplished, that you have fought for, that you are proud of.  Those are the things that typically influence our own personal version of success. “Choose to see the good stuff.”  Thank you to Google Images for that quote.
  3. Give yourself permission to not only make mistakes but also to forgive yourself for those mistakes.  The simple truth is that you will mess up, you will make mistakes and you should own up to this.  In most cases, you can recover.  (Yes, I know that there are some mistakes you will never recover from, but those aren’t the mistakes that we are talking about right now – you should try really hard to not make those kinds of mistakes)  If you don’t like something about your life, try to change it.  If you are unhappy in your current situation, think about how you could change that situation.  See something that you feel is unjust, stand up against it.  Whatever you need to do to in order to respect yourself, your choices, and your decisions.  According to Stanley McChrystal, “Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”  As the leader of your own life, put this quote to work!

Hopefully you have been able to find some nugget of inspiration in this!  Good luck as you continue to create the life that you are meant to live!

About the Author

Jenn Capps is the director of academic programs for the EI, World’s Greatest Aunt to her nieces and nephews, and perpetual binge watcher of Project Runway, Mysteries at the Museum, and The Royals.  She has taught entrepreneurship courses to almost 2500 students and is a three time alumna of NC State.  In her free time, she pursues her shoe obsession, visits flea markets and antique stores, and has been known to accidentally set the vacuum cleaner on fire.