The Problem with Seeking Success

My son is nearly 3 years old, and I am already under the pressure to ensure that he grows up to be ‘successful’. Life is one big competition and for this kid, it’s already started. Of course, he doesn’t know it yet, but his parents are acutely made aware about it through almost every waking moment.

Around a year back, he hadn’t started talking. In fact, he started around a month after that. But every time we met someone, we were asked if he’d started expressing himself verbally. The inevitable comparisons came up as well. Someone else’s 2-year-old was already speaking full sentences, and we were given such examples from all and sundry. However, the only thing we could do was be patient. And much to our delight, he began talking out of nowhere. Today, he knows words in three different languages – Gujarati, Hindi and English.

Now that that’s out of the way, I know other comparisons like this will crop up all through his growing years. And they’ll continue through the rest of his life. We are already hearing about how he isn’t able to run properly as yet, or how he can’t cycle as yet, and etc. Of course, no one commends the things that he does do very well, like recognizing all kinds of shapes and colours and alphabets and numbers. But then, to boast about these tiny achievements is the job of the parents. Obviously!

The point here is that he’ll be gauged in comparison to others, on yardsticks made up by someone else’s achievements. This is the unfortunate way by which we measure success. While each one of us strives to be successful, dreams of our children being successful, we forget that the meaning of success isn’t the same for everyone.

Success is a personal thing, something that gets defined by a person’s aspirations, desires, goals and choices. While success could mean a senior-level corporate job for someone, it could mean a business of organic farming for someone else. But just because the corporate executive drives a BMW and the organic farmer rides a cycle, you can’t say that the former is more successful than the latter. One shouldn’t even compare the two. Maybe the farmer has chosen to ride a cycle because he’s concerned about preserving the environment and his own health, while the executive is in love with swanky cars. If they’ve both fulfilled a goal, they’re both equally successful.

However, most of us don’t look at it that way. We are groomed and nurtured to believe that more money = more success. We study and work to earn money. But we never have enough, because there’s always someone who has more than us. And then we do the one thing we shouldn’t do – we compare. Success becomes something that someone else has.

Well, I am going to try and teach my son otherwise. I want him to be successful, but I want him to figure out what success means to him. I’ll teach him to not live on other people’s yardsticks. I’ll teach him to understand his personal aspirations and desires, and try to become successful by achieving them. I’ll teach him to not fall into the trap of the ‘ideas of successes’ created by the world around him.

I’ve begun to understand this, and I’ve discovered that when you know what success means to you, it becomes easier to achieve.

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