I cannot count the number of times i've asked myself, and some of my close friends/colleagues this question - what does success really mean to you?
Here's what some very 'successful' people have to say about how they measure success.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said it's a matter of satisfaction.
With 620 victories and 10 national titles, Wooden is the one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history. His definition of success is more about competing with yourself than the other guy: "Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you're capable," he said in a 2001 TED Talk.
Billionaire Richard Branson believes success is about happiness.
Though Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, is worth some $5 billion, the Virgin founder equates success with personal fulfillment."Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with," he wrote on LinkedIn. "In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are."
When I meet friends after a long time, we tend to update each other on our lives. Most times, these updates are centered around career and relationships. I've now begun to see a pattern with these updates: There is an increasing association of success with job title/position, money, power and recognition. Of course, these factors are essential to living a good life. However, in the last couple of years, I've realized that there are other equally important dimensions that contribute to how successful we are! Today is the festival of HOLI in India, the day we celebrate the beginning of spring, and pray for happiness and positivity. So I thought, it's also a great day to share my thoughts on the other dimensions of success:
Well-being and Success
On a daily basis, I meet people who sacrifice their sleep, health, and peace of mind to ACHIEVE. I've done it too - to the point that I was told if I had been even a few days later in seeing the doctor, I would be hospitalized. Today, a large part of corporate India lives a sedentary lifestyle, focused on work, party, and unhealthy weekends. Research says that over 70% of working professionals suffer from some psychosomatic lifestyle health condition - be it sleep related, blood pressure, Thyroid, Diabetes (type 2), PCOD or Knee/joint aches and pains. These conditions are physical manifestations of a stressed, disturbed state of mind. Yet, if this stress leads to us achieving something tangible (whether on the job or in our personal lives) do we see ourselves as successful (which has also now become synonymous with others seeing us as successful). In no way am I taking away from tangible achievements, I am only trying to bring out how this is done at the COST of something very big.
A lot of us are living a distorted definition of success - a definition that has been firmly established within us by society, by fear of failure, and competition. Yes, let's achieve at work, but let's also be equally proud of taking care of our well-being.
Here's what has helped me: The regular practice of Meditation, Yoga, and listening to ancient wisdom/knowledge has helped me re-define success for myself, enhance my physical, mental and emotional well-being, and live a fuller, more holistic life. There are times when I still burn the midnight oil, or work on a Sunday, however, when that is balanced with a deeper spiritual dimension, life seems more fulfilling.
Here's what stops people from living this life (I say this based on what I hear, as well as my personal reactions a few years ago):
"That's not what my peers or friends do to enhance their well-being" - Either we are impacted by what our peers and friends do, or we can influence them. If it is to feel better, and enhance well-being, why not choose the latter?"Who has the time?" - This is a big one. Only a few days ago, my friend asked me "how do you get time to meditate/practice yoga despite having so much to do?" - My only response is "the more the chaos in your life, the greater the need to practice mindfulness techniques"."My stress buster is the Gym" - Absolutely. Working out is important. I can't go more than 2 days without working out either. However, complementing our workout with practices that exercise, relax and calm our mind only compounds the impact of every workout! So why not combine a physical workout with some mental relaxation? :
While I don't have all the numbers to support this, I have begun to realize that our intellectual & financial wealth are heavily linked to physical & mental health.
It is time that corporate India embraces physical, mental and emotional well-being as critical contributors to SUCCESS, and not just 'nice to have' components of our lives. India's drop in ranking (from 133 to 140) in the UN Happiness report is also indicative of the need to enhance well-being & happiness. Considering most Indians spent a majority of their time at work, it is now a responsibility to make well-being a priority!
2. Giving and Success
"When we do something fun, our happiness is fleeting, but when we are philanthropic, and help another person, that happiness lasts." - MARTIN SELIGMAN
This beautiful quote by Martin Seligman brings out the difference between Hedonic and Eudamonic Happiness. Most of us today live for Hedonic Happiness. In other words, Hedonic Happiness comes from pleasure, fun, and receiving. Money, achievement, a promotion, being the center of attention in group/team settings, recognition, praise, 100+ likes on our social media posts are some examples. It’s a release of chemicals in the brain that make us feel good. Yet, they don’t last for very long. That’s why if you had a burst of happiness from let’s say, a promotion, soon thereafter, it’s worn off and you want more of it!
Eudamonic Happiness is closely related to connection, giving, and purposeful living. A sense of something greater than yourself. It’s what you feel if you’re a parent. It’s what you feel if you’re doing service. It’s what you feel if you’re contributing to something that’s helping others in some way. Science shows a high linkage between Eudamonic Happiness and well-being, happiness AND Success. Altruistic, helpful people are more likely to succeed on the job, in relationships, and overall life a more fulfilling life.
YET, most of our life is based on pursuing Hedonic Happiness. I don't in anyway mean there is something wrong with Hedonic Happiness. The small pleasures of life are here for us to enjoy, however, a life that is only characterized by hedonic pleasures is incomplete. One may not realize how meaningful it is to pursue eudamonic happiness until one experiences it!
It is unfortunate that corporate India, and work places today are all about pursuing hedonic happiness. Our friendships and weekends are also only about pursuing hedonic happiness.
Imagine - if every role or team member in an organization understood how their role contributes to a larger purpose not just within the organization, but also to our country/the world? If each employee took out only 2 hours of the working week to help others (expecting nothing in return). How different would your workplace be? Altruism is a simple, effective and SUSTAINABLE way to up the engagement, happiness, and productivity levels at work!
Along with my work, I spend a significant amount of time volunteering and teaching Yoga, Meditation & Holistic personality development workshops. There have been times when I've scheduled my time/week in a way that allows me time to teach these workshops. Why do I do this? - Seeing and hearing the powerful experiences of the people who go through these programs reminds me that CONTRIBUTING to others' lives is the single most important success metric in my life. Yes, this takes some sacrifice, however, the sacrifice/compromise is nothing in comparison to the fulfillment.
Contributing to others' lives can be done in so many ways - both on the job and off the job. All it requires is a strong intention. And if we combine Giving and Altruism with the hedonic, short-term pleasures - Imagine just how fulfilling and successful life can be!
3. Your definition of SUCCESS is personal: Unfortunately, the biggest limiter I have come across is us trying to live 'success' the way it may have been defined by either teachers, friends or colleagues. By this I don't mean we need to rebel. However, once one knows what matters to them, shying away from pursuing it because of social/peer pressure only leaves us with regret. Having decided to work independently over the last one year, as well as prioritize both well-being and altruism, there have been days, when others have asked me "are you sure you're on the right track?" In turn, I've asked myself, and perhaps obsessed on that question too. However, each time, I've realized that in the long-term, living my definition of SUCCESS is the most important thing vs. living someone elses definition of what would constitute success for them/me. Also, an organization that understands what each employee values (both within and outside of work), will perhaps be one that can retain and engage employees better!
It's your turn now. Ask yourself,
WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO ME?How can I CRAFT a 'successful' life?What would I need to sacrifice/compromise on?What are some obstacles I will face, and how can I overcome them?How can I add the dimensions of well-being and giving to my life?
Have a beautiful day! HAPPY HOLI!