I have found lately that one of the most common things that people my age worry about is their success. Between conversations with many friends and family members, it seems like everyone spends all their time and energy on “making the mark”. They have to reach the goal. They have to make the grade. They’re worried about graduating on time or what they’ll do after they graduate. And if something doesn’t work out the way they’ve planned it, that automatically means they have failed.
The world defines success as: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; the attainment of popularity or profit; a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.
That definition of success sits heavily inside me. The thought of my life being measured by whether or not I attain popularity or prosperity places a heavy burden on my heart. If you at the same stage as me in life, there’s a lot of pressure to begin figuring out what your life is going to look like and to start paving your “road to success”. You’ve got your five year plans, and benchmarks, and long term goals.
There’s a weight on a lot of us to make the grade, get the diploma, marry the rich guy, or get the 4.0 GPA. And your joy can easily be consumed by the wave of other people’s success. Other people’s success forces you to try to reach their standard. It causes you to push yourself farther and farther down a path that is eventually going to be damaging to your well-being.
We so often try to reach the mark that other people set for success. We try to measure up to their definition of success, the world’s definition, and not our own.
Well I’m writing my own definition of success. Because I don’t believe that my life is measured in bank accounts or report cards. I believe my life is measured in something less tangible, something that is more easily seen than felt.
I believe my life is measured in love.
My definition of a successful life includes building lasting relationships, learning all I can about life and love and people. It includes soaking in all the life-changing experiences that I can, and learning more about myself and what kind of person I want to be. I want my success to be defined by the moment that I can wholeheartedly announce, “God has been faithful and loving this far, and I trust that He will continue to be for the rest of my days”. I’m deciding that even if I don’t make the grade, have a 4.0 GPA, or get the dream job once I graduate, I will still lay claim to success as I have defined it.
Your definition of success isn’t going to look like everyone else’s. Your success doesn’t have to be measured in dollar amounts, diplomas received, job interviews scored, or trophies placed on your shelf. The success of your life can be measured in people, in the depth of your relationships, in the number of laughing fits that brought you to tears, and in the warmth of good conversations with your people.
I find that the Bible does not place a lot of importance on worldly success.
Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness”
I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that says “go make lots of money and find a standard 9-5 office job with a three figure salary and only then will you be happy”.
In fact, Luke 12:15 tells me that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”. Your life is not solely made up of the abundance of your riches. Your identity and your worth as a human being can never be placed on the amount of Earthly possessions you have.
That takes the pressure off. That statement alone relieves you of the burden to be successful. The weight of attaining the world’s definition of success can be crushing. It causes you to feel like a failure when you only barely missed the mark. The world’s definition of success will tell you that you’ll always have something or someone to measure up to, and since you fell short this time, that means you’ll always be a failure.
Your life is not measured in possessions.
Your worth is not measured by the success that the world has to offer.
It’s found in love. It’s found in the things penned down in Colossians: kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and patience. That verse in Colossians places importance on who you are, not what you have. Success as the world defines it will drain the life out of you. I wholeheartedly believe that rewriting your definition of success will cultivate more joy in your life that anything else ever could. Because this new definition of success brings you closer to God.
You know when I feel closest to God? When I’m pouring out love, forgiveness, and patience. When I’m kind and when I reach out to those in need. I don’t feel close to God when I’m studying or checking my grades or when my paycheck rolls in. I believe that our success as a person largely has to do with how much of God’s love we can fill ourselves up with, and then how much we can pour out.
At the end of my life I don’t care about being able to say that I made lots of money or had lots of diplomas or medals. I want to be able to say that I touched lives, that I gave love to people who maybe had never received it before, that I helped those in need, and that I poured out God’s love to everyone around me.
Find purpose and meaning in the definition of success that you find in God’s word, and let it sink into your heart. Relieve yourself of the pressure to “measure up” to those around you, and rewrite your own version of success. Remember that your worth is not found in tangible things like a bunch of “important” pieces of paper. Your worth is measured in something that’s a little harder to see, but much easier to feel, and much, much more valuable to God: love.