THE BLOG
11/03/2014 04:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why I Stopped Defining Someone Else's Version of Success

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I always wanted to be the corporate high-flyer.

Saw myself as someone who'd excel in the business world. Counted on the fact I'd become a leader in international commerce. Knew I'd wear the suit, drive the flash car, and be respected and acknowledged as a 'somebody' (because I was horrified at the idea of being a 'nobody').

I didn't know any better. All I did know was that this was the way of the world. You worked hard, earned lots of money and died rich. What else was there to understand?

I spent my twenties and thirties trying to impress others and gain the approval of those around me who felt that money and jobs and houses and cars were the be-all and end-all in this life.

I towed the line and never challenged the status quo.

One day, I realised how much time and energy I'd spent on seeking consent from others for ambitions and priorities I wasn't even that vested in. Unfocused on the things that should have been important to me, I knew then that I wasn't content with this definition of success.

So I revisited what being successful meant to me.

And I knew it wasn't about money or wealth. It wasn't the power of a job title or the pats on the back from admiring colleagues. These long-held ideas around the meaning of success no longer sat well with me.

In fact, I don't think they ever did.

I wonder if the trigger for my change in attitude was a relocation abroad, the day I pushed back against the corporate world or that moment when I knew I had to start working for myself.

It was much earlier than that.

It was a deep-seated feeling of unease from an early age leading to a passion for wanting more out of life. Call it a different way of thinking or plain open rebellion, something in me refused to accept the normal order of things.

I soon realised that success was, and still is, about how I look after the things that matter most in my life - my wellbeing, family, the way I live my life, how the people I meet will remember me.

Success wasn't about jobs or houses. Not the area postcode or the label on my new shirt.

This summer, it was always going to be hard returning to the UK from my adopted country knowing that wealth and material possessions still matter to a lot of people I know.

Popular opinion there says that you must have a top job and talk about it often. Your house should be sizeable and close to a good catchment area for your kid's school.

And you have to drive a fancy car.

I lost track of how many times I was told, "so-and-so now works as a Director for a bank in London" or "did you know how much ole Whatshisname's house is currently worth?"

Fighting feelings of inadequacy as a mere writer and blogger, I questioned whether I should compare the life I'd created abroad to these affluent, more powerful lives at home? And should I then consider my own life a failure because of lesser income or personal wealth, the age of a car and whether or not I own the best house on the street.

Instead, I chose to judge myself against other criteria.

The life experiences I've had, places I've seen, the family I've helped grow and the space I've created by ditching material things to ensure I'm always around.

The fact that as my beautiful boy grows up, I can look him straight in the eyes and know that I chose what was best for us based on values other than the length of my job title or the hefty price of a meal at that swanky business lunch.

I know which version of success I choose.

I choose success defined on my own terms, where I determine what's valuable to me, certain that I'm headed on the right journey, in control and doing what I love most.

I choose the definition of success based on no regret.

What about you? What definition of success do you choose?

Russell Ward shares his take on living a fuller, more meaningful way of life at InSearchOfALifeLessOrdinary.com. Become a subscriber here. You can also find him writing better content for business and brand at TheInternationalWriter.com.