Our Default Measurement of Success

Through my journey of self awareness and growth I have had to adjust my definition of success many times. As I have had new opportunities and as I have thoroughly reflected on myself and others it has been crucial for me to reconsider what success looks like. In his book Considerations Colin Wright examines the same thoughts and feelings that I have worked through. “In the post-Industrial Revolution world, money has become the default unit of measurement for growth and success and personal evolution.”

Wright explains that we fall back on income as a way of objectively measuring ourselves relative to others because it is a simple and common unit between everyone.  How much money we make, however, is not the greatest measurement to determine success, growth, and the quality of ones life. It is easy to imagine that you have moved forward in a positive direction by increasing your income, but it is possible that the direction in which you moved is limiting you in other ways: creativity, spending time with family, giving back, and maintaining social connections could be limited as one makes sacrifices to obtain more money.

Continuing on, Wright states that using money to judge the success of others is a mistake because not all of us shoot for increased wealth as our main goal. It is hard to judge ourself against others if we define success as a certain income level, the ability to purchase a certain car, or the size of the home we can afford, when those we judge ourselves against view success as increased knowledge, increased visibility in their field, or happiness in their relationships at home. Money also is a terrible way to judge our success because of the vast differences in our backgrounds and family histories.  If having a lot of money is our measure of success, then many people are successful by default thanks to a fortunate birth.

Comparing ourselves to others based on money sets us up for frustration and disappointment. Not having the best car, the biggest home, and the biggest pay check can frustrate us and make us feel inadequate. When we change success to align with our internal values and ideas we begin to work toward better goals. Rather than comparing ourselves based on an external measure that we don’t have direct control over, we begin to judge ourselves based on value that we create for areas of our life that have true meaning.  This means that we will not pursue the car we cannot afford or the house that is too large and we wont flaunt our financial success. Rather than pressuring ourselves into certain boxes, when we remove money from success, we are able to strive toward goals that help us develop in meaningful ways.

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