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And since you’re taking the time to read this post, I presume that irrespective of where you are in your journey, you’re chasing success. But what does it actually mean to make it big? Or, how would you know when you have achieved success?

One of my coaching clients recently shared their internal conflict around not feeling very successful. This feeling of “am I really successful?” is a common anxiety which at some point or the other, we are all prone to. But the irony of this particular coaching discussion is that my client had enjoyed a stunning corporate career that spanned over two decades and saw many promotions along the way. And apart from his successful corporate career, he had a few months earlier embarked on an entrepreneurial journey where he followed his dream to start-up a consultancy. Within months of launching, he had already signed up enough clients to meet his revenue targets.

So where, you may wonder, in a situation like this would insecurity around personal success come from?

It’s no secret, we live in a more-of-everything world where we perceive that to be a lot we have to do a lot, learn a lot, read a lot, travel a lot, own a lot, earn a lot, spend a lot, hoard a lot, entertain a lot, and once we’re done we have to step up into the next level. At this point we start searching, because we’ve achieved a lot, own a lot, earn a lot, spend a lot, work a lot, travel a lot, we are a lot…right? But why then do we feel this little?

We feel this way because we live in a society where we’re chasing bigger, better, faster, stronger; a society where only more-than-the-guy-next-door is more! Where we look at the world through our want-more-glasses but can’t see what really matters. Most of us have more than we could ever need and yet live our lives in a false state of deprivation. We value the meaningless things that we accumulate along the journey more than we value the things in life that should mean the most.

We attach labels of success and status based on the glamour of the home, vehicle, clothes, gadgets and gizmos. We believe that our personal success and status is dependent upon these things, and so work harder and longer for the fancy house and manicured garden that we never get to enjoy. We’re stuck in a vortex and a state of disillusionment for we’ve acquired the things that society tells us should make us feel successful but we’re feeling more stressed and depleted than ever before.

And when you look at your life, you either see the glamorous things you’ve acquired, the fancy home, fancy car, heaps of clothes, and the latest gadgets and gizmos or you see a lack in your belongings when compared to the-guy-next-door, a colleague, or some preconceived illusion of success.

What then is the response to the question, where does this self-doubt around personal success come from? When you reach various milestones, achieve your goals, but fail to acknowledge your success, it often is as a result of you comparing yourself to society’s version of success or to a measure of success that does not hold true to you.

In the case of my coaching client, the source of his self-doubt stemmed from a comparison of himself to a colleague who shared a similar corporate journey. This colleague (who you would recognise as the-man-next-door) drove an expensive luxury car, dressed in branded wear and often travelled to exotic foreign locations on holiday. My client’s outer world was the opposite because he did not value any of these things. His outer world represented his values, in that he had started a business to create freedom to spend more time with and do more for his family while enjoying conservative pleasures. The comparison of his outer world to someone else’s and assuming their outer world represented real success caused undesirable self-inflicted levels of  unhappiness coupled with an unhealthy level of self-doubt.  

The fact is, when you compare your outer world to that of someone who values different things to you, you will always feel at a loss. However, if you compare your outer world to what you value most in your inner world, you will be able to not only acknowledge your success but celebrate how it is reflected in this world.

You are unique, embrace it, succeed in life in a way that is true to you and you will already have made it big.

Author bio:

Usha Maharaj CA(SA), certified brain-based coach, life-long learner and corporate veteran with 16 years+ field experience in a global ‘Big 4’ audit firm unveils the most common career pitfalls, and shines a light on the tips and tools that differentiate the ordinary from the extraordinary, in order to help you achieve the success that you already want and to help you be a better you.