The American dream is synonymous with success in our country: Wealth, health and happiness represented by a big house, a nice car, and comfort for our families. It’s an admirable dream, but one that easily invites comparison with fellow Americans — and you can quickly find yourself falling into the trap of attempting to “keep up with the Joneses.”
Ironically, this can lead to unhappiness and ultimately, the inability to ever achieve your own goals.
That’s why it’s time to forget the Joneses and come up with your own definition of success. Only when you stop measuring your success against others can you create achievable goals that actually matter to your life.
It’s true that other people’s success can motivate us. It’s great to have role models and to find inspiration from people who have worked hard to reach their goals. The problem comes when we allow comparison to create an inferiority complex that’s difficult to overcome.
I’ve seen this happen among sales executives who are moderate to poor producers. They look at their more successful colleagues and wonder what their secret is. Rather than recognizing that they’re not putting in the work necessary to be more productive, they’re wasting time feeling envious and “unlucky.”
I call it the myth of scarcity, and I’m seeing it more and more often. I’m seeing it in people who believe that opportunity is limited and that only so many people can possibly succeed. Oftentimes, these people come from comfortable backgrounds, and they were never taught how to thrive on their own — to work for what they want to achieve. It’s much easier to look at others as “lucky.” It’s much more comfortable to say your own lack of success is due to a lack of luck, as opposed to a lack of hard work.
More realistically, we struggle to reach our goals because they’re not achievable. Mr. Jones may have a portfolio of million dollar homes, but he also founded a start-up and he makes a seven-figure income. Your income may be more modest, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Set goals that you know you can achieve, and revisit them as you continue to climb the ladder of success throughout your life.
There’s no one definition of success, even for yourself. Take the time to periodically look inward and consider what success means to you, and create a realistic plan for how to achieve it. Only then will you find happiness — and that alone is one of the greatest measures of true success.