Everybody wants to be a success, but how do you know when you’ve really made it? It’s hard to rely on your family and friends, because if they’re nice people — no one comes up to you and says: “You suck!” But they’ll fill your feed with things like “queen,” and “slay!”
On the other end of the spectrum, because we’re constantly hard on ourselves (and due to our annoying habit of comparing ourselves with other people), we always feel like we’re frauds and failures.
The truth must be somewhere in the middle. Adulting is hard and scary enough, and the odds always feel like they’re stacked against you. But what’s even scarier is if you have no way to know if you’re doing well or not.
Are you a failure? Are you on the path to it? Or maybe, are you just slowly learning things that’ll make you a success someday?
How do you tell?
This is how to know when you’ve won at life.
Confidence Comes With Age
The good news is that it gets better. The older you get, the more things you learn. Your skills improve and you build confidence.
You get to work and realize what was really necessary for college, and what was bullshit. You start earning your own money and eventually figure out how to grow it.
Experience is important because it gives you data. When you’re feeling like a failure, you can look back at blessings in your past, and realize that hey, maybe you’re not doing so badly after all.
Because feelings are unreliable — one day you’re on top of the world and the next day you feel like shit. But the good things you’ve done in your life — that’s forever etched in history. Remember to look at these when you’re feeling down.
Defeating The Demon of Wanting more
Yet, there’s always something more that we want. What makes us happy today gets boring tomorrow.
It’s a curse that’s inbuilt into all of us. Human nature makes us compete for progress — it’s what drove our ancestors to make civilization what it is today. But the flip side of our desire for a better life is that when we achieve it — it’s never enough.
This is the demon we must all fight to the death with. The demon of wanting more, who constantly whispers to us “Your life is incomplete until you get xxx.”
He plays a seductive tune that entices even the strongest among us. An evil that rips happiness away from even those who have everything in life.
And yet, the demon is wrong. Yes, there’s so much out there I’m missing out on. But there’s so much more that I already have.
Completing The Journey of Success
In our minds, we think of the winner’s circle. A finish line, whether it’s one million dollars, a corner office, or a pair of twins. Somewhere we can get to, then rest, knowing that we’ve won. Wouldn’t that be great?
But it’s tiring. It’s tiring to chase the dream. I’ve never believed in settling for a mediocre life, but there’s a price to pay for chasing something more.
Like Achilles and the Tortoise in Zeno’s Paradox, the finish line moves. The closer you get to it, the more impossible it seems to pass it.
You’ve heard this before: success is the journey, not the destination. But what does this really mean?
It means this: if you measure your life by achievements, you will always be disappointed.
Maybe a better way is to find happiness in the small things you do every day.
If all you care about is arriving on Bora Bora island, you’ll miss the beautiful process that gets you there. You’ll curse at the laggy flight ticketing system, and miss the miracle that is affordable prices on the Internet. You’ll fume at long queues at the airport, but forget that statistically, most people in the world today still haven’t had the privilege of flying.
And you’ll snap at your longsuffering travel partner beside you, instead of savoring the touch of their hands.
– – –
Do you see it now?
Despite the challenges you face, the problems that keep you up at night, and the fears that paralyze you.
Life isn’t about winning one grand battle after another, and showing off the trophies. It’s about showing up to do battle, finding a way to grind through the difficult times, and picking yourself up when you fail.
You will never have full control over the outcome; you can only put in your sincere effort. Then let the universe take its course.
But the fact that you’re still here, waking up and fighting another day, doing the best you can given your circumstances. You may not know it, think it, or even feel it yet — but it really means one thing:
You’ve already won.