If you don’t define success, other people will define it for you. Even worse, you may waste years working towards a goal that is not even yours. The Oxford Dictionary defines success as the attainment of fame, wealth or social status. This definition does not feel enough.

I looked at other famous definitions of success. I was inspired by a few of them. I created my own and I am sharing here:

Success is enjoying the dance of life while becoming a better dancer and bringing others to enjoy the dance with you.

Let me elaborate:

Enjoying the dance of life

The inspiration for this came from a great quote from Maya Angelou:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

The part of the definition I found especially interesting is the “liking yourself.”Most of us are hard on ourselves. Arianna Huffington says she has an obnoxious roommate in her head. Thoughts like ‘you are a fraud’, ‘you are a failure’, ‘I am not good at this’, ‘what was I thinking’ are common. A lot of times the voice echoes the words of a parent.

Our early experiences shape a big part of the relationship we develop with ourselves. It is worth looking courageously at those experiences. It will help us understand and accept our weaknesses. There is no way anyone cannot feel compassion towards a scared or hurt child. A lot of the things we tend to accuse ourselves of, come from the scared or hurt child inside us.

Mindfulness practice can also help us accept our thoughts and feelings without judgment. This could be a huge step towards liking ourselves.

The second part of the definition is ‘liking what you do’. It is not always easy. 70% of Americans hate their jobs. 47% of the UK workforce would like a career change.

I see two parts in this. The first relates to our ability to take risks and not settle for what we do not like doing. We can fail at what we don’t want, so we might as well do what we love.

The second part relates to our ability to appreciate what we have and what we do. Our occupation is never going to be perfect. The mere fact that we get paid to do it makes us lose a big part of the motivation. We can learn to focus on the positive and find joy in what we do, whether it is work, parenting or even laundry.

Finally, ‘liking how you do it’. Knowing our values and living according to them is crucial for happiness and success.

Becoming a better dancer

A lot of great masters talked about fulfilling our potential as the ultimate success. Here is one quote from basketball coach John Wooden:

‘Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.’

Becoming the best we can requires us to stretch ourselves and step out of our comfort zone.

There is a sweet spot between challenging ourselves too much and too little. The first causes anxiety and the latter boredom. Positive psychologists call this sweet spot flow.

They argue that achieving a flow state on a regular basis is a fundamental component of happiness. Flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The activity becomes an end in itself. There is no fear of failure or self-consciousness. Our skills are well proportioned to the challenge. Flow it is directly related to ‘liking what you do.’ It is also the best way to reach our potential.

Bringing others to enjoy the dance with you

Being happy with ourselves and always becoming better is not enough. We will not be successful unless we have a positive impact on the world and others. The below quote of Waldo Emerson is one of the most beautiful I have read:

‘Success: …to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!’

‘To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.’ Wow! This idea is so beautiful and simple.

We are hardwired to give. fMRI technology has proven that when we give to charity, the reward area of our brain lights up. The same that would light up if we won the lottery. Relationships are the key to happiness, according to Harvard’s longest ever study. Nurturing our relationships and helping others are essential components of success. Bringing people to enjoy the dance with us. Or in other words, love.

Why dance

British Philosopher Alan Watts gave a fantastic speech about why our life is not a journey. Most of us, get trapped into anticipating the next milestone. We work towards ‘success’ somewhere in the future.

A journey takes us from point A to point B. Life is more like music or dance. The point is not the end. It is the moment. Like music, the universe is playful. It does not need to go somewhere.

I used the metaphor of dance in my definition of success because it illustrates the playfulness of it all. Success is not about achievement. It is about every moment. It is not about the journey. It is about the dance. If we do not get this, we will be stolen away from our years always striving for the next thing.

Success is enjoying the dance of life while becoming a better dancer and bringing others to enjoy the dance with you.

This definition works for me. For now. I would love to hear your definitions of success in the comments.

This article was originally published on HuffPost.

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