I was flipping through an old Glamour magazine when I came across an article written by Zosia Mamet, one of the stars of the television show Girls. Although I have heard of the hit show before, and I have yet to watch an episode, but I stopped skimming through the pages and began reading mostly because of her cool name— I know very few people who aren’t named Zoe and whose names begin with a Z! The article entitled Zosia Mamet on Why She Won’t Lean In, Thanks, talked about success and people’s different versions of it, which really struck a chord.

She went on to paint a scenario about potentially wanting to own a small coffee shop, instead of act. In the end, her dream would come true and she would be perfectly content with having one café location, instead of a whole franchise. Yet, the people around her would most likely say that she wasn’t living up to her full potential (she’s just settling), or they wouldn’t be as impressed with her achievement , as they would be if she had struck a multi-million dollar deal that allowed her to sell her coffee to all the citizens of the world. Or better yet said (in the words of the author herself), “We are so obsessed with “making it” these days we’ve lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms.”

This statement was the part that intrigued me the most because a) I realized that she was right and b) her article reminded me of a story I had read once before – the beloved tale of The Fisherman and the Businessman. Which in turn really got me thinking about what success meant to me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a full game-plan that I can show you all, but I can offer a few things that I’ve learned and noticed whilst trying to answer this question.

Focusing to hard on the wrong things, can make you get lost.

Like Zosia, I think that many people (including myself) are so focused on making a name for ourselves and trying to achieve such great things, that we end up lost and go about finding success in the wrong way.

Happiness = Success

I think that whatever makes you happy, is what ultimately makes you successful. How can you claim to have “made it” (whether that means having a huge house, or owning a palace, etc.) when you aren’t even able to actually enjoy your newfound prosperity? When you do something in life that makes you happy success will soon follow.

There’s no clear definition to success

Defining success to me, is a there’s-no-right-or-wrong-answer type of thing. I think that finding success is as much as an introspective type journey, as a physical one. It’s a journey whose degree of ease or difficulty is unique for everybody. I think that it’s easier for those of us who know what they want (even if the path to take may not entirely be clear), and it’s a bit more difficult for those of us who aren’t exactly sure about what their own brand of success looks like and feels like, and most importantly how it will make them feel (hopefully happy) and how they will be perceived (once again, hopefully they will look happy).

There are a lot of  external pressure which warp our perspective of success

Whether, it’s from your friends, your family or just society in general, there seems to be a lot of outside forces which influence the way you identify success as vs. what success actually looks and feels like to you. In life, I think that some people are the Businessman, from the story of The Fisherman and the Businessman, and want to live the “American Dream” and have tons of money. Then there’s those who are more like the Fisherman, and prefer to live out there days with everything they need (the small coffee shop scenario). Both are right and neither are wrong, but the true question is which one is right for you.

There are a lot of internal pressures which warp our perspective of success

The number one thing holding you back (and potentially making a mess of things) is yourself! Self-doubt is a huge factor in how we feel about ourselves and shaping our goals. For example, being put on the waiting list of an Ivy League school, while your close friend got accepted, can be a major blow to your self-esteem and can cause some to re-evaluate their goals for the worse. Rather than taking it as a good sign, you begin to be excessively tough on yourself and embittered, possibly letting a great opportunity pass you by.

Albeit, I get the whole “being obsessed with ‘making it’” idea. Whenever, I watch movies  where the protagonist is this fierce, independent woman, who can simultaneously manage her business, children's care and stick to her personal fitness regiment, I feel empowered I to do it all too. The problem is, I can barely juggle going to school, working and going to Taekwondo, without ending up sleep-deprived and looking like a member of the walking dead! (At this point, my definition of success is just being able to get enough sleep.) So, I have a hard time imagining someone who can actually do all that and get the recommended 7 hours of sleep per day, who isn’t secretly Wonder Woman or a member of the X-Men.

I’ll admit dear readers that I’m not exactly sure what I want to do in life,and it’s been a question that’s been plaguing me since grade 6. However, after writing this post and reading that article (thank you Zosia!), I think that I’m beginning to have a clearer idea and I’m positive that once I can finally define what success means to me, the answer to that question will be revealed as well.

What is your definition of success?