Everyone's definition of success is different. Some people want to be remembered for something great and leave a legacy for years. On the other hand, some want to live comfortably and would rather be happy doing so than worry about being remembered.
There isn't necessarily a right or wrong way to become successful. After all, everyone's metric for success differs, and it all depends on who we choose to be in our lives. You might be the type of person who doesn't obsess over money, or you may very well be someone who fixates on wealth because of what it can afford you and those you love. You're not right or wrong either way and on some level, we need to know ourselves before trying to find success in the ways that suit our preferred trajectory for life.
With all that said, I have found three great questions that everyone, especially young people, can ask themselves as they navigate through (or prepare for) adulthood and figure out who they want to be. Like all advice, take it with a grain of salt and decide if what I share in this article resonates with you. These questions have served me well in my life, and when I encounter younger people seeking advice for starting off on the right foot, these are typically my go-to's.
QUESTION #1: WHAT AM I DOING FOR SOCIETY?
Look around you. The world didn't just get where it is because people fended for themselves for all human history. The technology that we enjoy and the incredible influences amassed over hundreds of years have come from a group of people embedded within each culture who made an effort to do something beneficial for their respective societies. As a result, we have moved forward as a human race ( admittedly, sometimes for better or worse). This is how we pass along a heritage conducive to those who will inevitably supplant us.
This is the first question we must ask ourselves as we embark on life's journey because the key to fulfillment for anyone is often commensurate with seeing the bigger picture and how we fit into it.
We must ask ourselves if we want to be a part of society's pursuit of becoming better or decide if we will disappear into the background and live away from others. If you seek to do the latter (which I cannot fault anyone for), you aren't wrong or misguided. However, I believe that some of the most fulfilling acts we can commit help get the serotonin chemicals in our body pumping vigorously.
In his excellent book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek discusses four chemicals with tremendous power in humans. One such chemical is serotonin, which I'm sure many of you have at least heard of before. Serotonin is a chemical released in our bodies when we feel genuine respect and admiration from others, and as a result, we feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and confidence.
As productive members of society, doing our part, we can better see where we fit into the world and how we have an opportunity to make it better. This is fundamental for deriving fulfillment in our lives and as selfish as humans can often be, it feels good to do something for our communities. We ought to take pride in the services that we can provide.
QUESTION #2: WHAT AM I DOING FOR OTHERS?
That society we just talked about is made up of many other people. The question then becomes, what are we doing to add value to the members that make up our societies? Life is about cultivating relationships with others because humans are meant to live amongst each other. We must recognize that the world is made up of several others who all have hopes and dreams of becoming successful in their own lives, and it is these same people with whom we share the world.
Not everyone is born to be a leader, and quite frankly, not everyone should be (or be made to feel they must become one). But we don't have to be leaders to add value to others. Everyone that we meet in our lives can learn something from us and teach us something in return. We must choose to open our hearts to what they have to say and make an effort to receive them. Everyone has value and purpose, always. By teaching others and allowing ourselves to learn from them, we enrich one another's lives, which is how the best communities function.
Another chemical that Simon Sinek discusses in the book, as mentioned earlier, is oxytocin, which is the feeling we gain from our connections with others and the bonds we form together.
When we invest in others, we are simultaneously investing in society. It doesn't have to be everyone, but every positively influenced life counts. Whether it's mere kindness and encouragement or teaching someone valuable skills, we must all seek to invest in our connections with others so that we may hope to build a better world to share.
QUESTION #3: WHAT AM I DOING FOR MYSELF?
Yes, thinking of ourselves is very important; I would go so far as to say even critical.
Don't do everything in life expecting nothing in return. After all, we must always consider what is in it for us in some capacity. This is primarily predicated on a singular idea: we cannot hope to take care of others if we cannot first learn to take care of ourselves. In other words, we can't pour from an empty cup.
We all have needs that must be met; at the end of the day, our life is our own. It isn't very reasonable to believe that people will always reciprocate and care for us with minimal effort on our part. Getting our needs met requires that we be the right amount of selfish in life.
Do not misunderstand! If we build our successes off of the backs of others, then this would be immoral and unethical; that is why this question is the last one we must consider within the framework I have just provided. It must remain ever-present in the back of our heads for any given situation.
Some people will take all they can until nothing is left. Don't allow this to occur. Set boundaries and expectations; learn to say NO when necessary and be smart about who you spend your time with. If we give to givers, we will find the fulfillment we seek, but if we give to takers, they will take all they can from us.
By learning to distinguish between givers and takers, we can sooner recognize that takers aren't interested in benefitting society or adding value to people because their insatiable craving to serve themselves will never allow them to find fulfillment until they choose to change.
Invest in others but don't spend too much time on people who have no interest in reciprocating or paying forward with kindness and good grace. Know when to move on because there is always someone in need who will be more inclined to give back to society rather than find ways to take as much as possible. It may sound harsh, but this is reality.
CHOOSE TO LIVE FOR SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF
Most people have their preferred steps or methodologies for finding fulfillment in life, but if you are someone who doesn't, or perhaps a young person about to embark on this scary and exhilarating journey of life with no real plan, then consider what I have just shared in this article and take it with you as you chart your course in life.
Whatever you choose, remember to live for something bigger than yourself. When we decide to serve a higher purpose or calling, we can develop a passion for something. Let's find and pursue our passions so that we may work hard to enrich our world and its occupants while simultaneously stacking the deck in our favor.