What Does Success Mean To You?

We recently hosted a fabulous breakfast session with Hayley Dawson, founder of The Blocks all about success in business. Hayley has kindly shared her latest blog, What Does Success Mean To You?, with us below – thank you and please enjoy!

Years ago, I used to think that success was passing my exams, going to university, getting a good job with a high salary, getting married, buying a house, and having children. I recall my 16-year-old self telling my friends that I’d be married with kids by the time I was 25. Now, I look back and laugh. Obviously, I didn’t anticipate just how hard it would be to find a job, the wild house prices in the UK, and the fact that I had no idea who I was.

Are we striving for more or less?

It’s no wonder that so many of us feel the pressure to follow this path. We’ve been fed a cookie cutter idea of success that tells us to do all of the above and, on top of that, make sure that it’s shiny and impressive. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of success with the job, house, marriage and children is still incredibly valid if that’s what you want. But it’s not what everyone wants for their life, and that’s okay.

In a world that constantly tells us to strive for more, strive to be successful and strive to be a somebody, I’m observing a resistance against the traditional idea of success. Whether it be down to the realisation that we can do our own thing or the societal shifts that have resulted in us not being able to “settle down” in our twenties as our parents once did, we seem to be slowly edging away from the surface-level impressive life that we’ve been told to work towards.

Are we striving for less now?

Societal expectations

Over the past few months, I’ve been interviewing members of The Blocks community about modern life. I’ve learned that so many of us aren’t sure about what we want to do. We feel a pull towards a desire to succeed but are conflicted about what that looks like.

Lily, 26, told me how she feels:

My friends have great jobs, they make loads of money, they can afford to live alone and they always look put together. I see what my friends have and I think that I want it too, but every time I achieve something that’s similar to what they have I feel flat. I don’t know what it is or why I’m not happy with anything I achieve. What’s the secret to their success? Am I chasing the wrong things? Do they even want what they have?

We’re collectively starting to realise that success is as individual as each and every one of us. Society’s obsession with success has conditioned us into thinking that our achievements are what make us who we are. That there’s a secret to success. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Job, The Flat, The Friends, The Clothes don’t make us who we are and they don’t make us more worthy.

Every time I see someone post on social media about the “secret to success”, I cringe. I can’t say this enough: there is no secret because it’s different for everybody. Success is personal and the key to yours is defining what it means to you as an individual, then working on your plan to build your life in your way.

Breaking free

Many of us follow the path laid out for us without questioning why we’re walking in that direction. It’s easier to do the done thing than to work out a way to do it differently which, let’s face it, could come with a barrage of judgement and criticism from those around us. But what if you don’t want to go to university? What if you don’t want to work in an office? What if you don’t want to get on the property ladder? And what if you don’t want to get married? I’m not suggesting that we break all convention and tradition. That’s not necessary. But we don’t always need to accept the way things are done just because.

The expectations of modern life have increased as we’re expected to have the same as those who came before us and some. However, a resistance to the pre-carved path is becoming more and more common.

Nala, 38, shared that she feels influenced to live the life her parents want for her:

I’m already expected to do so much and make my parents proud and when I combine that with what I want to do, it feels impossible. My parents convinced me that being a lawyer was the right path to take for the status and high salary. What makes it worse is that my parents use my job as leverage to make themselves look good. I hate being a lawyer! My dream is to work in fashion. I’ve finally realised that I need to do what’s best for me so I’m doing courses on the side to learn as much as I can before putting myself out there. I’m not looking for a high-paying job. I’m looking for a job that I’ll be happy doing.

We’re led to believe that our status and salary hold more value than our contentment, but living how you want to live will benefit you and others in the long run. If you’re happy, you have a much better chance of making others happy. If you’re living to your full potential, you’re serving yourself, others and the world.

Like Lily and Nala, many of us are starting to realise that success is personal and our markers of success are slowly shifting as we encourage ourselves to follow our own paths.