Just recently, I received an invitation for my 20-year high school reunion. I was wondering what people would look like after all of these years and how their lives have turned out.
I remember many of us leaving school with the anxiety-inducing question of whether we would ever be able to make it in life.
Somehow, this question tends to pop up later in life, again, when we reach special waypoints -- a milestone birthday, promotion, marriage or parenthood. We still carry this burden with us: Have we finally made it?
The answer to this question is very much dependent on our personal standpoint; however, we have a tendency to consider ourselves successful only if we measure up to general standards of success -- and it can be quite frustrating when we feel left behind.
1. Live by your own standards.
Why don't we ask ourselves, for a change, how we define success in life? What are the standards we are expecting to live up to? It's healthy to find out, and also, to learn where they stem from.
Quite often, we are chasing the wrong ideals for the wrong reasons, and it makes us miserable. We make ourselves believe that there are achievements we need to be able to tick off at some point in life. At the same time, we neglect what we really want.
The only standards for success in life should be the ones we set by ourselves. After all, it's on us to fulfill them. We think we can have it all -- fame, money and a millionaire lifestyle -- but we will never feel satisfied if this is not our ideal in the first place.
2. Look at your life as a whole.
Our lives are always in motion, but when it's time to evaluate, we do it from a static perspective. We judge from an angle that doesn't do justice to how our personality has grown over the years, which difficulties we have mastered or what we've learned about life and ourselves.
It's unfair to just take into account what's happening in the present and what we own. It makes us oblivious for what could be possible if we weren't so blinded by the not so perfect "now."
3. Put your life in perspective.
It can be humbling to count our blessings before asking ourselves why we have not made it yet. With our daily routines keeping us busy and distracted, we live in a microcosm that we attach too much importance to.
We forget about the "world out there" that has nothing to do with office politics, tight schedules and colleagues who climb the career ladder faster than us.
I'm talking about the world in which many of us live decent, privileged lives without even being aware of it. We take too many things for granted and end up feeling like a failure. Just because our peers lead other lives, does not mean that ours is less successful. It's just different.
4. Uncover your excuses.
How our life turns is a result of the choices and decisions we've made or didn't make; however, we like to find excuses, don't we? In fact, we use them to make us feel better about ourselves, because we know that it's ourself who is standing in our own way most of the time.
Uncovering the reasons takes courage; it can be an unpleasant and eye-opening experience. Who likes to discover that it was all in our own hands, but we just refused to pull the strings?
The more in-depth questions we ask ourselves, the more it will help us get the ideas to create a road map we can consult when we get stuck. Insight is the first step towards change, and it can help us push our life in another direction.
5. Don't overthink -- live.
Life cannot be planned like a project. Our dreams and standards will never be chiseled in stone. As life changes, so do we -- and what we've considered important once can become obsolete at a later stage.
Priorities shift, so don't desperately cling onto old dreams just because you had them when you were younger. Sometimes, it's good to go with the flow of life, and keep an open mind to new chances and what resonates with us.
Don't overthink your life's achievements or failures. In the end, what counts is that we manage to be content with our life no matter where others stand at the time we take stock of our own.
Put yourself in the shoes of another person looking at your life. Do you think they would see it the same way you do?
Success in life is pretty much a matter of perspective, and perspectives can change, too. So relax, and enjoy the moment.