Quick Takes:

  • Sometimes we undervalue our successes
  • By undervaluing our successes, we overvalue our failures
  • We need to change our internal narrative so we value ourselves correctly
  • Break through your perception paradigm by understanding why your success isn’t a reality

How do you measure success?

I mean you, as in the person reading this right now. How do you measure your success?

It doesn’t take much to realize that a self-definition of success is different for everyone. While vagabonding around the world might be one person’s definition of success, crushing it on Wall Street might very well be someone else’s.

What’s interesting is that although we know everyone has a unique definition of success, we often compare ourselves to others when measuring our own success. This causes a vicious cycle where we are too hard on ourselves, which brings us down, which makes us feel even less successful when compared to others, which repeats the cycle.

This trap causes a “perception paradigm,” where we undervalue our past successes, and overvalue our past failures. This culminates in us comparing ourselves to people we deem “successful,” and feeling like we’ve come up short in our own lives.

This isn’t true!

It’s a story we tell ourselves; it’s a fiction story we tell ourselves. Remember: we are the directors of our own mental movie. It’s human nature, however, to live a story of failure and missed opportunity, rather than a story of achievement.

There are six reasons why we undervalue ourselves, that if redefined, would break our perception paradigm and literally change our outlook on life:

1. Your Potential is a Moving Target

You should never meet your potential. Period. If you hit the ceiling of your potential, than you’ve been neglecting self improvement all along.

The reason for this is that when you set a lofty goal, and move toward attaining it, the knowledge and experiences gained along the way literally increase your potential. You have a better understanding of the world as well as a larger toolbox of skills, which allows you to set and achieve even loftier goals.

Then, as you move toward achieving those goals, you’ll further increase your understanding and toolbox, and your potential will increase again.

I think of your potential as a target and life as an arrow. When you shoot your arrow, the target moves up a foot, so even though you hit your mark, the target has increased in height. This metaphor should continue your whole life.

So, when we look at ourselves, complain that we haven’t met our potential, and view ourselves as a failure, that’s a good thing! It means you’re focusing on the right goals so you stretch your abilities and growing.

Don’t view meeting your potential as your ultimate goal, because you’ll always be dissatisfied with your success. Rather, view the speed in which your potential increases as your goal.

This way, your success is measured by your ceiling, and not your ability to hit it.

2. You’re Never as Good as Your Ambition

If you’re reading this, than it’s safe to assume that you’re ambitious. If you’re focused on self improvement and self growth, than it’s also safe to assume that your ambition exceeds your (current) potential. Great!

Your ambition should be so high that it’s virtually out of reach. This will cause you to set those lofty goals I mentioned above, which will increase your potential, which eventually, will allow you to reach your ultimate ambitions.

When we view success, however, we often look at the fact that we undershoot our ambition and potential, and think it signals failure. Not so. Your ambition should be so high, that “even if you shoot for the stars and miss, you’ll end up on the moon.”

Instead of measuring our success by our attainment of potential and ambition, we need to measure our success by the loftiness of our goals, and be happy with the learning experience we gain by waking up every day and attacking them with a vengeance.

Then, and only then, will we properly value ourselves and our success.

3. There Aren’t Enough Hours in the Day

Lets face it, it’s pretty hard to complete a daily to-do list when your potential is high and your ambition is even higher. When we undervalue ourselves, we look at our half-finished list of tasks, and think “how unmotivated I must be!”

But if your goals and ambitions are worthy, you won’t complete everything you want in the timeframe you want. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.

Rather than valuing ourselves by our unfinished lists, we should value ourselves by our desire to complete something so demanding. As long as you’re maximizing your time and consistently putting in the work, that should be all that matters.

When it comes to tasks, success should be measured by intent and work ethic, and not by what was left undone.

4. Motivation Waxes and Wanes

What if I told you that losing focus on your goals actually makes you more successful? When we think of our motivation in the traditional sense, we think a lack of it means that we’re failing. A lack of motivation, in the moment, seems like the end all be all. How can we achieve our goals and become successful without the proper motivation?

We constantly fall into this trap by undervaluing our past motivation, and discounting our potential future motivation.

What we need to do is view our motivation linearly, and not as a snap shot. Sometimes, it’s because we’re so motivated that we actually burn ourselves out, at least momentarily.

When I start to lose motivation, instead of thinking of myself as an immediate failure, I look at the entirety of my life over the past few months. Have I been motivated overall? Have a moved myself in the direction of my goals?

If the answer is yes, than losing motivation is a good thing. Take a week off. Recharge your batteries. Value yourself as a hard worker who needs some time off every now and again. If you take one week off a quarter to be lazy, that still means you’re hyper-motivated 92% of the time.

Sounds like a high value achiever to me.

5. You Aren’t Them

You aren’t Mark Zuckerberg. Sorry. But if you aspire to be, than power to you! Just because you aren’t an influential billionaire doesn’t mean you can’t become one.

What I mean to say here is that while you should always be comparing yourself to those above you in success and social status, you shouldn’t measure your value and success against them.

By striving to get to their level, you give yourself stretch goals and lofty ambitions – stated above – that will push your life forward and force you to grow. That’s true value and success.

Don’t fall into the trap of undervaluing yourself just because you aren’t a billionaire, or haven’t invented the largest social network in human history.

6. You Never Know What’s Going On in Other Peoples’ Heads

Who ever said that you never know what’s going on in someone’s bank account or bedroom? Well, they were right, but not completely. You never know what’s going on in someone’s head, period. 

When we look to other people as examples of success, and measure ourselves to them, we’re projecting. “Look how successful they are,” we think to ourselves.

Chances are, however, that their dealing with their own perception paradigm. Chances are they view themselves as a failure, and quite possible you as a success. The quicker we compare ourselves to others, the quicker we undervalue ourselves.

Remember: life’s a marathon, and the only person you’re competing against is yourself. As long as you’re trying your best and putting in consistent work, you should view yourself as a success.

Through the compound effect, your daily incremental progress and focus on self-worth and value, will lead to some phenomenal results. And then it will be others who make the mistake of comparing their success to you!

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  • Measuring your own success varies from person to person. One may rate their success very high with little achievements whereas highly successful people may not even count their success.

    The main difference between moderately successful people and highly successful people is highly successful people keep on working towards people even after achieving high level of success.