If you are ambitious, you are bound to feel like a failure from time to time. Lofty goals lead to inevitable moments when you are not yet living up to your expectations.
We live in a world that reinforces this feeling. Though most people will not admit it—other than the guy with the ‘He who dies with the most toys wins’ bumper sticker—in the back of our minds, we equate material possessions with success.
It is a shame we fall prey to materialistic thinking because we certainly know better. A study by Strayer University found that 90% of Americans believe happiness is a bigger indicator of success than power, possessions or prestige. Digging a little deeper, 67% defined success as “good relationships with friends and family,” and 60% said it is loving what you do for a living. Only 20% stated that monetary wealth determines success.
But saying and doing are two very different things.
When it comes to success, our eyes often lead us astray. It is hard not to feel like the most successful people are those with the biggest houses, the most expensive cars, and the most influential friends. Regardless of what you achieve, there is always someone with more, and this can make you feel like you are losing. The problem is not your lack of toys; it is believing that toys indicate true success.
Real success is about who you are and how far you have come. If you ever worry that you are not as successful as you should be, you may be evaluating yourself against the wrong criteria. Sometimes you just need a reminder as to what you have really accomplished in life. The success indicators that follow will help you do just that.
1. You are no longer the center of the universe. We all know “successful” people who act like they are the center of the universe. It is their world and the rest of us just live in it...right? That is not success. True success requires the ability to feel empathy—to realize that other people’s feelings and dreams are as important as ours, and we cannot succeed without them.
2. You stay positive. Hope and optimism are essential components of a happy life. If you dwell on the things that go wrong, you become bitter and resentful. When that happens, you fail—no matter what you may have achieved. Real success means always seeing the bright side and believing you have the power to make even the worst situations better.
3. You know that failure isn’t forever. You have learned that the only people who never fail are those who do not try. When you fail, you do not automatically assume that you are a failure. Instead, you embrace each failure as an opportunity to learn something—and then you move on. If you still struggle with this at times, know that you will never experience true success until you learn to embrace failure. Your mistakes pave the way for your success by revealing when you are on the wrong path. The biggest breakthroughs typically come when you are feeling the most frustrated and the most stuck. It is this frustration that forces you to think differently, to look outside the box and see the solution you have been missing.
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4. You keep things in perspective. Sometimes bad things happen. It is part of life. For most of us, however, our very worst day would seem like a vacation to somebody who has real problems—like not having enough to eat, or trying to survive a civil war. Locking your keys in the car—or even getting passed over for a promotion—are not that bad once you learn to develop perspective. If you have mastered the ability to keep your problems in perspective, mark it down as a huge success.
5. You ask for help when you need it. Refusing to ask for help, no matter how much you are struggling, is a sign of emotional immaturity. Asking for help means that you no longer feel like you have something to prove by being perfect. It shows you are not afraid of people discovering your weaknesses and you understand no one succeeds alone.
6. You realize that life isn’t a zero-sum game. It is not a see-saw, either. Just because somebody else achieves a big success, that does not mean you suffer a loss in equal proportion. You only did not win that particular time. One sure sign of success is the ability to celebrate others’ achievements with sincere enthusiasm.
7. You can tell the difference between drama and excitement. Remember the days when stable relationships were boring, and you quickly got tired of anyone who treated you as they should? If that kind of “drama” is a thing of the past, congratulations. If you prefer stability and depth to drama, you are succeeding.
8. You no longer care what other people think. You only worry about what other people think when you still feel like you have something to prove. Conversely, you know you have “made it” when you do not worry about that anymore—when you are true to yourself and your principles, and satisfied with your life. You know you have made it when you understand that other people’s opinions are that—opinions. They have no effect on reality. They do not change who or what you are.
9. You accept what you can’t change and change what you can. There is a difference between pessimism and practicality. If there is a hurricane headed your way, there is nothing you can do to stop it. But once you accept that the hurricane is coming, you can start working to mitigate its effects. If your company downsizes and you get laid off, every moment you spend in denial delays whatever is waiting over the horizon. You are able to move on only when you start exploring your options and making plans to change what you can. Taking responsibility for changing the things you do not like about your life is one of the biggest indicators of success.
Bringing It All Together
There is no sense in feeling like a failure because you think you should have a better job, a bigger house, or a nicer car. Real success comes from the inside, and it is completely independent of circumstance.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.
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