By Dr. Frank White
What metrics or unit of measure should define a person’s paradigm for success?
Let’s begin by defining the word paradigm, a success paradigm, or otherwise. Simply stated a paradigm is a way of thinking. So our paradigms begin with our thoughts, which are a by-product of our life experience, our adopted and acquired mind sets, our social programming and our personally engaged influences by those around us and closest to us creating our paradigms of;
- What is acceptable
- What is valued (emotionally/culturally/spiritually/psychologically)
- What is morally right
- What is ethical
- What is honest
- What is socially acceptable
- What is valued (financially) (how much stuff do you have)
- What is good (how we are seen/how we perceive others)
- What is bad (how we are seen/how we perceive others)
- What is honorable, right, just
- What is politically correct (a new social measurement)
- What we can achieve (limited belief)
- What we should achieve (what we’ve been told)
- What we need to achieve (what society tells us)
- What success means (by the masses and self-adopted)
- How success is defined (by the masses and self-accepted)
- The good, the bad, the right and the wrong of success
- The haves versus the have nots
- Our emotional connection with success (how we feel, very powerful influence)
From this, these thought positions, we begin to create our personal biases and beliefs and develop a personal relationship with our view or vision of success. We begin to create our personal definition for and measurement of success. This list allows us to identify our archetypes or models/examples of success. And those models become the paradigm model and language for us as individuals.
This leads us to the path of comparisons and judgement a by-product of measurement. He or she has acquired that, have achieved that, have attained that, and I don’t or haven’t therefor they are successful and I am not. We begin to measure by social comparison rather than by personal comparison. Personal comparison being the measurement between what ‘I’ personally want and define as success and how close to that model have I come so far.
This creates a separation between us and them. The us being not yet successful by our measurement and the them the ones that are successful, again by our measurement which was created and influenced by a lot of external and experiential influences, social bias, self-inflicted values and the apparent limited them and the ever abundant us.
Our challenge is the earlier overview we identified for the development of our current paradigm (or way of thinking). Our thoughts, as we see, play a major role in this entire process and we need to take a really close look at how we are thinking in regards to the whole concept of success.
So could our definition of success be wrong? For some of us I believe that to be true, based on the typical responses people give in response to the question “What is success”? More often than not when ask people answer the question with a list of universally accepted tangibles such as wealth, position, title, fame, or assets. In addition we add the social and personal identity pressure of making each item critical to the list. All of this is further complicated by the arbitrary branding of the ‘Success Model Stereotype’ that for most from our youth till now seems far too unattainable. The lens of our ever discerning personal conscious and sub-conscious camera is filled with images of the famous, from corporate barons, to iconic athletes, to globally famous actors and political powerhouses.
So then how do we measure success, or better said how might we want to consider measuring success? In business for example for most it appears to be a sum total game of income (revenue/sales), market dominance (position and prominence) and net profit (retained earnings) with stock prices and dividends ever increasing and happy stockholders ( a perception of and judgement by the as yet unsuccessful) (for public companies). As in sports the team that scores the most points wins….. Or do they? Well from the perspective of the scorecard the team with the most points wins, but from another perspective the team with the most loyal fans wins….. Or do they? It becomes perspective and value placement, it involves feelings and emotions and personal connection.
This is true, some would say, for the individual as well. The person with the most toys wins, who has the biggest sandbox or better yet who has a sandbox, nice though it might be and who has an entire beach? We come back to measurement, yardsticks, perspectives and social and personal bias. In the last political cycle for example how much did we hear about the one percenters and we are still hearing about the one percenters. The one percenters represent the haves in the haves and the have not world and they are labeled as evil by many. WHY? Clearly by some measurement they are very successful, are they not? It would appear that we want what they have but we don’t want to become who we think they are. Here we are back again to ‘thought’, who we ‘think’ they are. We think how could they be happy, after all money can’t buy happiness, or so we have been told and lead to believe (there’s that darn bias again). I have always said that poor people don’t build hospitals, don’t endow universities, and don’t finance major global needs.
So as you can see we on the one hand we usually, rather quickly, assign the success unit to a financial benchmark. We then abdicate the success throne to the financial and subordinate our happiness in the process.
If we move to consider how we consider success in ‘life’ we might find ourselves challenged, as we said earlier by the stereotypical vision we have of personal happiness. We often then continue to bump into that “money can’t buy happiness” model we have heard all our lives and that contrarian thought collides with a mental face plant with “neither does poverty.
As we can see our thoughts and our perspective on this vitally important subject is being impacted, defined and developed over time by forces outside of ourselves. We (most of us) have simply been programmed to think in this way, and it is all validated by the results we see most often accomplished by the average person today.
So what then of the Warren Buffett’s, the Steve Jobs or the Bill Gates? What has caused the separation in those people and the average person today? In my opinion they realized that they were in charge of their critical thinking. They were in charge of defining, for themselves, their success. Now before you jump up screaming that I just defined success by financial terms, I have not, I simply use them as a model you know. As we have said the average person will almost always go to this kind of list first to define success. These particular three examples that I chose to use also are/were great examples of mastering critical thinking and taking full ownership and accountability for achieving what they wanted in their lives and clearly defined what success is/was for them, again in my opinion.
Obviously everyone has their own definition of success in and for their lives. It is not your job and should not be your goal to live up to someone else’s idea or model of success, nor should you allow someone else to define what your success model should look like. You are in charge of and responsible for measuring success by your own personal model. Equally we all need to realize that if we truly want to define and create our own model for success then we have an obligation to allow others the same grace in defining and creating theirs, without judgement by either party.
We all know, for example, amazing and successful people (by their standards) that some might consider to not be very successful at all. What of the single parent who struggles, works two jobs and raises a wonderful and loving family while putting their children through college, a luxury that they themselves unable to do? Would we not define that person as a success? What of the small business owner who grew up in a blue collar environment and puts himself/herself through college and then opens and build a successful small business serving an appreciative community? Would we not define them as successful? I think we would define these examples to great examples of successful people.
As was mentioned earlier when asked to define a successful person we almost always give a list of the wealthy and famous. When then asked how we measure success for ourselves, what we are looking for, we quickly go to things like happiness, time, freedom, giving to others and fame and fortune rarely make the first cut.
So what then should our metrics be to measure success in our lives? Please remember when answering this question that definitions are self-created and are usually biased by our life experience and socially inspired judgements. We also have to remember that we usually measure by comparison rather than by personal preference. We then quite often exacerbate this by looking for a universal yardstick by which to measure and to top it all off we create way too much fear around social acceptance of our choices and decisions.
Most of us will require a bit of a paradigm shift as we move forward towards defining or maybe re-defining what success is for us. In so doing what might we consider in creating or defining our success matrix? We might want to consider;
- How we feel
- Who we are
- Who we will become in the process
- What we truly want to attain, achieve, acquire
And as for units of measure for success (what you create as your list of goals/milestones/benchmarks/measurements we might consider;
- Does it make you happy (feelings)
- Does it make you feel proud (emotions)
- Does it give you a sense of joy
- Would you do it for free
- Does it serve your view of the greater good
- Does it fulfill you
- Can it sustain you emotionally, spiritually and psychologically
- Does it provide the financial vision you have for yourself
My concern at this point is that some of you reading this may be assuming that success is measured by happiness rather by wealth. Please understand that I am not saying that at all. I am however saying that success may well not be solely measured by fame or fortune. The important point here is that success is very personally defined. I clearly have some large financial benchmarks in my success matrix and as well I have a massive happiness quotient. My goals certainly include the attainment of assets, financial freedom (sizable), time freedom (abundant time), philanthropy, emotional health, physical health, psychological health and spiritual health. My wealth success unit of measure is “mine” designed by me for me and serving me. I do not ever measure my success matrix by anyone else’s. I am solely responsible for achieving all the levels of success that I want in my life and so are you.
So what about you… Do you feel successful?… or… Do you feel that success is slipping through your fingers, eluding you? Do you think that you’re doing all the things that you could be doing to be successful? Do you think that you have the right success paradigms working in your life? I can tell you from observation that the vast majority of people, probably ninety plus percent simply operate out of miss-aligned paradigms in their life, especially in the area of success.
So now it’s time to really and very clearly define in great detail what you want in your life, what does success look like for you. What do you really want in the areas of health, wealth and happiness? AND is your success paradigm (thinking) aligned and unlimited? Do you believe that you will achieve, attain and acquire the level of success that you want and desire?
You will find that going through the paradigm shift to align your paradigms with your belief will include some benchmarks or phases in the process:
- The “It’s Impossible” phase (I can’t do this) (I’m a loser)
- The “Infatuation/Love Affair” phase (they did it and they’re cool) (I’m not cool)
- The “Big Dream” phase (It would be great to do this) (fear and doubt)
- The “My Vision” phase (I want to try to do this) (I need some courage here)
- The “Resolution” phase (I’m doing this period) (screw the fear)
- The “Self Belief Moment” (I did it, holy frijoles I’m awesome)
This is where the achievement of your goal/vision of success is realized. This is where self-belief and self-confidence appears and establishes a foundation for you moving forward. You fully understand and realize at this point that anything is possible, this massive paradigm shift in your success model has established for you a new level of self-belief that will forever be a model of success achievement.