The Fallacy Of Success, And What To Do About It

In American society, the word Success is more than just a trendy buzz word. It is a pervasive mindset that has saturated our entire professional landscape.

We all seek it, we all think we need it, and apparently it is the benchmark by which our value in society is judged.

But what the heck is it?

Let's be honest, certain thoughts come most frequently to mind when you think of success, notably financial wealth. But if you ask a hundred people what success is, you will likely receive close to a hundred different answers.

Everyone's definition of success, in reality, is completely subjective.

If everyone has their own unique definition for success, why then do we all feverishly claw our way through our workdays in order to be seen as successful on the societal level?

Alain de Botton, a British philosopher and author, presented a TED talk on this topic. In his talk, he discusses how American society is a meritocracy in which everyone feels so entitled to deserve their position in life and their career.

As a result, this entitlement creates a society in which there seemingly "must" always be a winner and a loser - hence hierarchies within companies and governments - and subsequently leads to a higher prevalence of suicide in developed countries because "we take failure so much more personally", as though it is a reflection of the quality of our existence.

de Botton goes on to discuss how ours is the "first society of people that only worship themselves." As Americans subscribe to religious belief systems less and less, we identify our own deities, often times around us on a daily basis: those whose success we see as the landmark for which to strive.

With no governing body in charge of what success actually is, though, we often panic and come up with what we think others are striving for and what society would accept as success.

Rarely do we recognize the opposite: the fact that, since there is no common law about success, we have total personal freedom to define our own unique criteria and our own unique life path to get there.

de Botton's presentation is titled A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success for the sake of reminding us to take a breath and consider what our own idea of success is. To be gentler and kinder to ourselves and the pressures we place on ourselves for growth and achievement.

If you were asked "What is success?", how would you respond?

What are your specific criteria for success in your specific life?

Better yet, what factors influence your definition of success?