All too often, we mindlessly measure our success using others’ yardsticks. The truth is that collectively we are buying more and more things and even planning a constant rotation of Instagram-appropriate, “epic” experiences. Still, we do not feel any more joyous. Actually, our collective joie de vivre is at an all-time low. Only 31% of Americans said that they were very happy in 2018; in 2020, that plummeted to an astounding 14%. Yet, to look at social media, 100% of people sharing their lives with their followers seem nearly ecstatic. This disconnect leads heavy social media users to develop depression and anxiety at higher rates than people who use these platforms less.
Sometimes if we sit still for a while, we realize that the thing we thought we value represents something else. Some people believe that they value money when they actually value the freedom that money can provide. Or they feel that they value esteem and recognition when it’s a social connection that they desire. If you can’t explain why you want to achieve something, it’s not a value of yours; it’s something that you’ve been told you should value.
Though it may sound simple, what you choose to measure when determining your success should be aligned with your priorities in life. Think about a woman who forces herself to live on a diet of salad and apples, coupled with three-hour workouts, although her number one priority in life is the happy family that she has no time or energy left to focus on at the end of the day. We also see this a lot when someone is so busy climbing the career ladder that they abandon every other facet of their life, including their physical or emotional wellbeing.
Remember that doing the same thing every day but expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Until you link your daily schedule to your values, you will feel uneasy and unable to live in the moment. Many of us end up wishing our lives away by saying things like, “as soon as I finish this tedious work project, I can focus on the art that is my true passion” or “if I just make my house perfect, I’ll finally have time to enjoy with my family.” How many of us have known someone who miserably toiled for years, counting down their remaining working days, and then passed away just a few months after their retirement party? Many experts recommend creating two pie graphs that detail how you spend your time and how you want to spend your time.
Instead of determining how you’re doing based on the images projected by others, compete with yourself. Are you doing better than you were before? Are you continually striving to improve upon the things that you value in life? Again, your goals have to be measurable. “Have a good relationship with my kids” is not an appropriate goal. “Spend two hours of one-on-one time with each of my children weekly” is something that you can measure.
There’s a lot you can do daily to move toward your “true north,” such as associating with people who have similar priorities and a compatible outlook on life, taking a few minutes every morning to assess how you can honor your priorities, and regularly reflecting on what your dream life both looks and feels like.