Success is a magical word, it stimulates positive feelings and imagery in our mind. We all want to be successful. While we fervently chase success, it continues to remain elusive to many. How often have we paused to reflect on what success really means to us? A recent interaction with a colleague put me on a journey of self-introspection.
Few days back, I got a frantic call from my colleague requesting me to meet one of his employees, let’s call her Vandana. She wanted to resign as she felt that she cannot succeed in current organization. Vandana is technically strong and a good employee; my colleague did not want to lose her. He wanted me understand the real reason for her resignation, and help retain her.
I met Vandana the next morning. Half hour into the conversation, it became clear that she was unhappy in general, not so much with current organization, work or boss. She felt that she was unsuccessful, and felt an urgent need to become successful. Her mind had become a complex web of confused thoughts. She felt that she was not successful in her personal life, hence she should at least be successful in professional front. Why she considered herself unsuccessful in personal life, she had no clear answer. Only a complex set of emotions came forth! She had no definition for professional success either. Fortunately, she agreed to think through the situation; reflect on what success really meant to her. We set up another meeting couple of days later.
While driving back home that evening, I pondered over my conversation with Vandana. Success indeed is confounding; here’s what makes it so:
Success is personal and very unique to each one of us. It could mean a variety of things: CXO level position, setting up a firm, expertise in a domain, wealth, property, assets, religion, family and relationships, education, fame, power, political stature etc. The list can simply go on and on. Success is defined by who we are and what we believe in.
Here’s where success gets tricky: it’s is unique to us, but we succumb to societal pressure while defining success for ourselves. It makes us blind to what we really want, what will truly make us happy. If my neighbor’s son gets into IIT or Stanford or the like, how can my son take up history in a local college? If my classmate at college has become CEO of an organization, how can I remain a mere Vice President? What about the new Porsche that my friend bought last week? How can I live with my poor old Indian car? Never mind my son’s passion for history, my lack of interest in running an organization, or the debt trap that a Porsche may lead me into. If I don’t get them, I will be unhappy. And because I do not truly desire them, I am likely to be unhappy even after I get them.
Success usually comes with conflicting choices. As a result, prioritization becomes tough. If I want to take up a senior position in corporate sector, chances of my missing several family events is high. It’s a choice one makes. When we make a choice without completely understanding its implications on other aspects of life, we end up lamenting for the compromises. And consider ourselves unsuccessful despite achieving what we set ourselves out for.
Success and the associated happiness is not incidental. Success is a carefully planned journey undertaken after making considered decisions.