How You View Success Differently As You Age
There is nothing wrong with dreaming big. In fact, it’s very important to do so—that whole “Reach for the moon and land among the stars” philosophy is definitely onto something. I think as we get older and progress further in our careers, we don’t stop dreaming; we just learn to look around and appreciate what we have in addition wanting more. I graduated from college with a head full of steam about being a world-renowned author by the age of 30. Then, I learned that, well, I wasn’t a very good writer yet. Simply getting good at a skill takes a long time. Then there is the issue of marketing yourself. And then there is pure luck. Are you what the market wants now? Do you know the right people? What I’m saying is that, I never stopped having my dream, but I now praise myself for the smaller steps I’m taking to get there. Younger me wouldn’t have been excited about the milestones I’m excited about now. Here are ways your ideas of success change as you get older.
Young: You want a sick house
I used to think I could only be happy if I had a really sick house—like one with a four-car garage, five bedrooms, a pool, and a guesthouse. I suppose I was fortunate enough to spend time in houses like those when I was a child, around humans who didn’t exactly see like billionaires so, I figured a home like that was attainable with a reasonable salary.
Older: You want a house
Now I know just how hard it is to put aside enough money for a down payment on a house, how tricky it is to get approved for a loan, and what type of house my money could actually get me. I’d feel successful to own a house now. Like, any house.
Young: You want to roll in money
I used to think of all the stuff I’d buy one day, and all the trips I’d take. I imagined that all of my purses would be designer, that I’d go on a weekend getaway at least once a month, and that I’d never really have to check my bank balance again.
Older: You don’t want to worry about money
Now, I’m just grateful to have enough money so as to not worry about money. I don’t need money in excess to be happy; I just need enough money to alleviate concern.
Young: You want to be the boss
I definitely thought I’d be the head of a very successful company by age 30. I know—cute, right? I assumed my days of working for someone else would exist solely in my early twenties.
Older: You want a good boss
Now, simply having a reasonable boss with a clear plan for the company’s future (and my job stability), a good head on her shoulders, and some compassion feels like a success. I still have standards and would know if I needed to find a better job. But I’m not the hot-headed, impatient kid I used to be who thought she was too good to have a boss.
Young: You want a high profile
I once dreamed of having journalists begging for interviews with me about my…wildly popular book. I presumed people might even know my face from some magazine article.
Older: You just want respect
Not that it’s even an option to me but, I’ve learned through others that I wouldn’t necessarily want a high profile. I’d like to be respected in my industry, to be allowed to do work I love, and to have consistent work. I’d like to be able to reach out to other professionals in my network and get a quick response, but I don’t need strangers on the street to recognize me.
Young: You compete with others
I was rather competitive when I was younger. How many subscribers did my blog have compared to this other writer’s? How many publications had picked up my short stories compared to hers? My happiness relied heavily on how I was doing in this race.
Older: You compete with yourself
Now, so long as I did the most I know I’m capable of for that day, I feel happy. I compare myself today to myself yesterday. That’s it.
Young: You want to impress your parents
I used to want so badly to impress my parents. I don’t even necessarily know that their approval of my career would have brought me joy—but I can say that their disapproval easily upset me.
Older: You realize that’s a lost cause
I’ve learned to let go of my parent’s approval, and not to let their critical comments get to me (as much). They’re only humans, who I’m sure have their own insecurities about their careers and achievements.
Young: You want to always win
I just wanted to be a winner when I was younger. I wanted to get every award, every promotion, every raise, every type of recognition…I wanted everything to go my way. I needed it to, desperately.
Older: You want to handle failure well
Now, I’d love to win—of course. But I if I handle failure gracefully, maturely, and with a level head, I also consider that a win.
Greed decreases as perspective increases
The longer you’re in your field of work, the harder you realize certain milestones are. So, you learn to take pride in the smaller ones that, younger you may have overlooked.