All of us want to succeed in life. We want to accomplish something – to feel that in some way, we’ve “won”. It’s easy to get sucked in to thinking that we have to succeed on someone else’s terms when, really, we each need to define success for ourselves.
What does success look like to you? Is it the expectations set by your mak dan ayah (parents)? Your grandparents? A high earning job, your own house, sometimes the number of children you have is a symbol of success too? Is it keeping up with the Jonah’s; the latest high definition television set, big cars and a flashy phone?
When we point to someone and call them a “success”, what exactly do we mean? All too often, we mean that they’ve reached a high level of their career and they’re making a six-figure salary, mansions in Bukit Tungku. But success is a lot more than how much money you make, or how much stuff you own.
Why Success Isn’t Money
It could be money. But let’s think about that for a moment. Beyond a certain level of security, having more money won’t make a difference. Sure, you can always buy the latest Apple iPhone X or splash out on a better car, but how many steak dinners do you want? Sometimes a casual mamak session with your close buddies after futsal gives much more joy than being surrounded by stuffy uppity socialites.
A big bank balance might be nice to look at, but it can never replace the love of family and friends, or the sense of satisfaction gained by doing work which you enjoy and which is fulfilling. You could be earning RM100,000 working a 60-hour week in a job which you hate. Or you could earn a respectable RM60,000 a year and is able to have weeknights and weekends with family and friends… is that success?
Again, beyond a certain level of security (that you determine), having more money at the expense of everything else may not be all that great.
Success Isn’t About Having Stuff
If we don’t define success, we’ll end up as though it’s a game where we need to rack up as many points as possible. We think success means having a particular career, or owning lots of flashy gadgets, or even having a partner and three kids.
I’m not saying that your career or your family don’t matter – of course they do. But in themselves, are they really YOUR “success”? Is your unmarried uncle a failure because he chose to travel the world and work for charities, rather than buying a house, settling down? Is your friend a failure for raising 4 intelligent, well-balanced children instead of her previous corporate gig?
The truth is we often get caught up following what ‘others‘ are doing, and how they may define success. It may not be for us. I’m not saying any of these are bad. The message I’m insisting on is to define success on your own terms, and not to carry expectations of others on us.
Success Is Living Your Best Life
So what exactly is success? Well, there’s no single definition. Once you define success, you get to live your best life according to what you set it to be. It doesn’t matter what your friends or parents or society thinks: defining success is up to you.
Perhaps, to you, it means having enough money to get by, and having as much free time as possible. It might mean getting recognition in a particular field – maybe as an artist or a musician. For some people (both men and women), success might be about raising happy, healthy children.
I’d encourage you, whatever stage of your life you’re at, to take some time to truly think about what success looks like to you.