Success and failure: what are they based on?

We constantly hear about success and failure since they are concepts that, in a culture as competitive and dynamic as ours, play a big role in our lives.

However, we often leave aside a more deliberate reflection on exactly what measures we use to evaluate success or failure. This happens because we assume that success or failure can only be measured in economic terms.  Fortunately, your life and achievements are worth a lot more than you material possessions.

Success and failure: what are they based on?

Success and money

Indeed, if people succeed in their lives or, on the contrary, fail miserably, this is usually related to their professional lives (and hence, their money).

This way, we conclude that a person is successful if they have a high salary or garner public recognition in the form of promotions, a position of high status with power over others, awards, etc. … All of these things can contribute very positively to an individual’s self-concept and self-esteem, but are they synonymous with personal or professional success?

Apart from simply being a very reductionist criterion, focusing too much on money isn’t the best method of evaluating success since financial achievements are relative. Fine, you have a lot of money, but compared to whom? The average worker in your country? Your friends and family? The billionaires listed on the stock exchange? Maybe you’re a highly-respected and esteemed professional but, does your work fit in with your values? Does the praise and external validation satisfy me on a deeper level? How long does that satisfaction last?

Success and failure: what are they based on?

Comparing your success to others’

The famous theory of social comparison (also known as the concept of “cognitive dissonance”) posited by Leon Festinger, a social psychologist, tells us that we evaluate our qualities by comparing them with those of others.

In this way, we come to the conclusion that we are doing well or badly based on how others appear to be doing. For example: I may feel very unhappy about having just failed an exam but I will surely feel better after remembering that another (more unfortunate) person was just diagnosed with cancer.

On the other hand, it is possible that, upon discovering a dampness in the ceiling of my living room, I start to victimize myself and think that everything bad happens to me, a thought that will be alleviated when I remember that there are people sleeping on the street whose lives are much more difficult than mine.

The opposite can also happen. How happy I am with my physical appearance when I look at myself in the mirror depends on whether I first look at a picture of a stunning model on the cover of a magazine. If I do that, I’ll be more likely to think that neither my body nor my style is worth much, so basically I will have failed aesthetically.

The important thing, as you may have already realized, is to decide with whom to compare ourselves so that we don’t spin out of control with unfair comparisons.

Remember: you decide how to adjust your criteria to evaluate how well you are doing in your own life. Think carefully about where you want to focus your attention because that will influence whether you are favored by that comparison or if you are holding yourself to standards so unattainable that the only conclusion you can reach is that you have failed. In summary, you are your own biggest critic, so try to be fair to yourself.

Also think about what categories you use to determine whether you are a successful person. If you continue to take into account only the parameters “money” or “status,” you will arrive at the rather restrictive conclusion that you have failed. If you go to far, you might even decide that you are a failure (if you do not have a job or if your job brings you little social capital).

Success and failure: what are they based on?

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Beyond money

Regardless of how we assess the success or failure of a person, this topic is inherently linked to issues that are relevant to everyone: your life, personal fulfillment, and subjective well-being.

Yes, you have caught on quickly. We are on the cusp of discussing Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Although it may sound like a lot of work, it does not hurt to self-reflect from time to time.  Where are you headed in your life? What is your purpose? What are your aims? Do not get overwhelmed with these questions; they do not always (or even normally) have revolutionary, life-changing answers, and more importantly, they do not have to.

Thinking about your “calling” in life can be difficult: listening to it and responding to it professionally and at every level is not always possible. However, we will still undoubtedly evaluate the components of our lives as successes or failures based on our response to this calling.

Success and failure: what are they based on?

Success and values

From this point of view, success would be responding appropriately to our calling in life. In other words, success is not just about acquiring a lot of money. Instead, success is about living according to one’s values.  Some people consider a successful life one in which they feel comfortable and have sufficient time, money, and health to engage in activities that they enjoy.

For others, success is being independent and able to fend for themselves, to have overcome difficulties they considered insurmountable or to grow in wisdom and maturity.

If one of your core values ​​is to have a lot of money, then yes, a booming bank account will be a clear indication that you are on the right track and will surely make you feel good. If you feel your calling is to be an important person, someone who is remembered in history books (for the right reasons), you probably will not feel successful unless you live long enough to see humanity enjoying your contribution or until you receive explicit recognition for your achievements.

On the contrary, if your values ​​are more family-oriented or based on growing as a person, then your personal success will be harder to measure in a concrete way, but not any less intense or significant.

Knowing how to measure your idea of success is important because it greatly influences your self-esteem, your future plans, and ultimately, your sense of personal fulfillment. In fact, taking the time to reflect on all of these is an important process that facilitates self-understanding.  You can do independently or with the professional guidance of a psychologist. If you need it, we are here to help.

Emotional well-being for companies

At ifeel, we understand that it is not possible to take care of the company without taking care of the psychological well-being of its employees. To do so, we have an emotional well-being program for companies, designed by our team of occupational well-being psychologists with one main objective: to help companies place employee health at the center of their strategy to build their mission statement.

Thanks to this partnership, the people in charge of HR departments can receive personalized, data-driven advice on how to make good decisions in a company to get the most out of the teams they are in charge of and take better care of the psychological well-being of the people in them.

Moreover, this program offers employees a holistic mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. This service includes, if required, online psychological therapy with a psychologist specialized in cases like theirs. Try our program today so you can see how it could help you.

We hope you have found this post about how we define success and failure useful. If you want more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, simply request it and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

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