Your Definitions of Success and Wealth
How Do You See Yourself?
An amazing, yet ridiculous, over the top New York penthouse apartment appeared on my YouTube feed, so of course, I had to check it out. One can only dream.
The thing is these types of properties will be just that – a dream for 99.9% of us.
Whilst highly unlikely, the game ain’t over until it’s over. Anything is possible.
But even if you’ll never be able to afford it, have you considered what you really want, know your definition of success?
Because if your rules for being successful and wealthy aren’t clear, you may never truly be happy.
Success is a State of Mind
Whilst similar goals and ideals may be shared, the meaning of “success” is unique to each of us.
Understand however, that like happiness, success is a journey, a state of mind - not a destination.
Think of a professional athlete who competes to be the best. Are they unsuccessful if they always finish second, never win a world championship? Just making the pro league puts them in the upper echelon of their sport - a huge achievement in itself.
Now consider someone spending life in prison. An individual who will never attain the wealth and status you might strive for.
What goals would they have? How would they define being successful?
Yes, some may live a miserable existence in anger, regret, sorrow.
But many on this side of the prison walls already do so, therefore circumstance can’t be to blame.
What matters is how you define its meaning for you.
In my twenties, I had aspirations for my career, investments, and affording one of my dream cars.
A few years ago, I ticked off the last of those boxes and whilst proud of my accomplishments, remember feeling somewhat dissatisfied and unimpressed about what I previously envisioned success to be.
“Is this it?” I asked myself. “Because I don’t feel any different.”
When gradual change happens, it’s not as noticeable as a significant one.
Think about the difference between a small pay rise vs landing a higher paying job. The pay rise is nice but very quickly becomes the norm.
And whilst providing greater initial joy, the higher paying job eventually becomes your new normal too.
The word “successful” has two definitions:
- Accomplishing a desired aim or result; or
- Having achieved fame, wealth, or social status.
Reflect on everything you’ve accomplished in your life, big and small. Aren’t there achievements you’re proud of?
You’re reading a blog. Literacy itself is an accomplishment.
The trap many of us fall into is comparison – between family or friends, celebrities, or complete strangers.
Don’t measure your success with someone else’s ruler.
Instead, consider if your trajectory in life is moving in the right direction. 📈
Some encounter setbacks, don’t accomplish what they set out to achieve. These can be challenging experiences, ones that significantly change the direction of your life.
I did. I’m not in the career I dreamed to be and worked towards growing up, but don’t see myself as a failure for not having achieved it.
There’s an element of fate to some things in life. Sometimes you will be tested, others it’s just meant to be. Your trajectory and ultimate path are determined by how you deal with and overcome those challenges.
The second part of the definition of “successful”:
Having achieved fame, wealth, or social status.
Many do not want to be famous but almost all seek greater levels of wealth and status.
When you define success as a number – be it an ideal weight, number of followers, salary, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment because you’ve attached its meaning to an achievement or outcome – a destination.
You’re subconsciously acknowledging that you’re not successful until those goals are met.
And when you eventually achieve them as I did with mine, feel unfulfilled because there’s always another level.
Change your definition of success to identify as already being successful.
That way you’re successfully achieving instead of always working to attain it.
If you’ve interviewed for a new position, you may have been asked:
“How do you define success?” or
“Do you consider yourself to be successful?”
Consider yourself successful because:
- You’re a life-long learner, committed to constant improvement, take on new challenges, never settle.
- You believe in yourself. When the chips were down, the odds stacked against you, you willed yourself through that difficult period, overcame, and are a stronger, wiser person from the experience.
- You’re a great friend, partner, parent; a respected leader, colleague, or classmate.
- You know yourself – your strengths and weaknesses, when to say no, or when you’re not doing enough.
It’s a mindset; a different way of thinking, seeing yourself, practising self-love.
We all berate and beat ourselves up. Accept that you will always be discontent. It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough – it means you have standards you hold yourself to. You’re on the right trajectory.
Happiness comes with continual growth. It’s when you get comfortable, stagnate, move in the wrong trajectory, that you think less of yourself.
Compare how you feel when you’ve gained weight vs on a health kick, been in a job too long vs day one.
The person you are is the complete opposite of the other.
“Forget about the summit. Revel in the climb.”
What Makes You Feel Wealthy?
Attaining “fuck you money” is out of reach for the majority of us, therefore some thought should go into how we reward ourselves along the way - make ourselves feel “wealthy”.
I was stuck in traffic when I saw this house on a busy main road in one of the lesser affluent suburbs of Sydney.
It wasn’t the house that caught my attention, but the Ferrari under the carport, a second possibly under the car cover, and Range Rover on the other side.
In my mind, a Ferrari is a status symbol, a show of wealth, and this house wasn’t exactly the type I pictured having one in the driveway.
In reality, this property would be worth over a million so if the occupier owned it along with those cars, they’re doing better than most.
Here’s another scenario:
I was at the car wash when two guys rocked up in their Lamborghinis. With that kind of money, I thought they’d look the part, i.e. well dressed. But both appeared from their cars looking very average, sporting Nike tracksuits and sneakers. If everyone at the car wash were in a line-up, you’d be hard-pressed to pick them as the owners (unless you have excellent powers of deduction 😉).
The point I'm making (other than to recognise your unfair biases), is to be smart with your money. Know what it is that makes you feel wealthy and spend conservatively elsewhere.
If what’s important is affording a nice home, is it necessary to eat out three times a week?
If yearly overseas travel is a must, do you really need the latest iPhone?
Or, if driving a nice car is your thing, is paying for multiple streaming services worthwhile?
It’s easy to overlook these expenses as you’re dealing with relatively small amounts. However, total them over the course of the year, add them all together, and you could be staring at a substantial figure.
This short-sightedness puts many in bad financial positions.
A friend of mine wanted to “become more independent”, stop relying on others.
Her solution - buy a brand-new car.
“What do you need a car for?” I asked. “You live in the middle of the CBD where there’s public transport and can hire anytime. You’ve gotten by all these years without one and really cannot afford it.”
I tell it how it is because she chooses to ignore the bigger picture.
“Yes, I can. I’ve done a budget and it’s only going to cost me $150 a week.”
Never mind that the car costs $25,000, will lose thousands in value once driven off the lot. That by making minimum repayments over the seven-year term she’ll pay more than double the price. Or the fact she has $30,000 outstanding on her credit card.
This attitude towards money will never lead to accumulation, real wealth; instead, a life living pay cheque to pay cheque.
I’ve been there and remember hating it because if the shit hit the fan and needed $5000, I’d be in a world of hurt.
It’s habitual to see a figure in your account more than you’re accustomed to and think, “Wow! I’ve got all this money! What can I spend it on?”
Break that habit. Start by getting clear on the things that matter most, cut out unnecessary spending so you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.
A pay rise doesn’t have to mean more money to spend. You’ve been doing fine without it. Instead, save or invest into a secondary account or shares you don’t touch. Accumulate a rainy-day fund for those “Uh oh” moments when you need extra cash.
Enjoy the things it affords you – freedom, experience, material wealth. But remember, money is merely a tool, a means to an end; the one question you should often consider:
“Am I using it wisely?”
“Success is not rightly measured by wealth, prestige and power. Success is measured by the yardstick of happiness.” - Paramahansa Yogananda
Don’t judge yourself by what you haven’t accomplished, are yet to achieve, but what you’ve already conquered, defeated, overcome – what defines you, makes you successful.
You’ll never be perfect, accept that - that you’ll be working on yourself to the very end. There’s always more you can do.
Enjoy the spoils that bring you joy, make you feel wealthy, your efforts worthwhile. You deserve it and owe it to yourself.
But do so with consideration; after all, it’s not money that you’re working for, but the freedom it affords you.