Become your own kind of success.
Defining Success on Your Own Terms
What is success to you? Society and social media often provide narrow definitions, showing lavish lifestyles or extraordinary achievements as the pinnacle. But real success is completely personal, built through small steps outside your comfort zone. Define success for yourself, work toward it daily, and celebrate even tiny progress. Thrive through the discomfort of growth to sculpt the life you want.
Don’t let others tell you what success looks like. Tune out the material markers like money, fame and possessions used to flaunt status. Those may be byproducts of success, but they shouldn’t be the focus. True success and fulfillment come from self-betterment, pursuing passions, helping others, and inner contentment.
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Constant self-reflection and improvement should be your goal. The Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius stated, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.” Do not be angry at your circumstances but view them as opportunities to better yourself.
Do not compare yourself to anyone else., we all have our own path. Seneca, another Stoic philosopher, wrote, “To wish to progress is a kind of progress already.” Your progress is not determined by others, but by your own, previous self. Compare yourself only to who you were yesterday. Write your own evolving definition of success based on your values and dreams. Make it emotional and purpose-driven, not attached to materialism.
Stoicism teaches that happiness comes from your perceptions and judgments, not from external things. Virtue and self-mastery are the paths to fulfillment. Follow your own conscience and nature. Epictetus, a Greek Stoic, said, “If you always desire the same things and the same circumstances, you will always be the same person.” Change will only come through continuous self-improvement.
Success is completely subjective and personal. Because of this, you can feel successful every single day starting right now! It is not a destination but a never-ending journey of growth.
The Formula for Achieving Success
Once you define success for yourself through this Stoic lens of virtue and self-mastery, there is a simple formula for achieving it:
- Do something difficult, even if small, toward your goal every single day. One baby step or task still counts as progress. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Build each day on the previous.
- Recognize and celebrate that accomplishment, no matter how tiny it seems to others. How you feel is what matters. Be proud of yourself. Stoicism says judgments about good and bad come from within, not from external opinions.
- Build momentum by pushing just slightly beyond your previous comfort zone. Level up the difficulty as you go. Aurelius stated, “What stands in the way becomes the way.” Obstacles strengthen you to take larger steps.
- Derive satisfaction from the discomfort of growth. Don’t avoid it, lean into it. Discomfort brings positive change. Seneca wrote, “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” Embrace the struggle.
This formula focuses on incremental progress through micro-wins. Each tiny gain builds your abilities, confidence and motivation. Consistent action is key, even when the steps seem insignificant. Celebrate those small wins and you’ll start to feel successful every single day.
An Example: Overcoming Anxiety
I used to have severe anxiety which controlled my life. Simply driving to the grocery store felt daunting. I was embarrassed and ashamed of feeling so helpless. But I turned it around through this incremental success formula.
First, I defined success as gaining freedom and independence. Then I started small, just driving around the block when I mustered the courage. I celebrated that tiny act of bravery, despite it seeming trivial to most. Buoyed by that win, I pushed further the next day, driving just a bit longer. More success and celebration!
Over time these small victories compounded. As I gained confidence, driving anywhere became possible. My world expanded dramatically. No one seeing my life today would guess how impaired I once was. They only notice the end result, not the incremental steps it took to get there. But I remember, and still honor each of those micro-wins that ultimately transformed my life.
Why Discomfort is Necessary
The most crucial part of this formula is leaning into discomfort and actually thriving in those difficult moments of growth. Discomfort arises when confronting challenges and leaving our comfort zones. But avoiding discomfort leads to complacency, sameness, and stagnation. As Seneca stated, “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.” Discomfort is necessary for positive change.
There are three types of relationship with discomfort:
- Avoiding – limiting growth and success
- Tolerating – begrudgingly, while pursuing goals
- Embracing – it as fuel to power through challenges
To become truly successful, you must move into the third category. View discomfort as an opportunity, not an obstacle. Mentally prepare for challenges knowing struggle brings rewards. Aurelius wrote, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Keep perspective through hardship.
The most successful people in all fields commonly have a high tolerance, and even craving for discomfort – it drives them. They lean into the struggle. Seneca stated, “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” Face each day with courage and enthusiasm.
Start Succeeding Now
You don’t have to dramatically overhaul your whole life at once. Just start wherever you are right now. Discover fulfillment through continual self-improvement. Define what personal success means to you. Take a small step outside your comfort zone, celebrate the win, and repeat daily. Thrive through the discomfort of incremental growth to sculpt the life you desire. Let this painfully simple formula spur you on beginning today.
The Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome and Greece provide timeless wisdom. Live virtuously according to your nature. Improve yourself and society. Persevere through obstacles. Do not waver. Gain emotional resilience against misfortune. Treat success and failure equally. Master your perceptions and judgments.
Follow these teachings in your incremental growth. Definition of success comes from within. Make progress through daily continuous effort. Keep your inner spark lit despite discomfort. Clear the path ahead step by step. Through small gains made certain by perseverance, you will mold an extraordinary life. You already hold everything you need to start succeeding right now.
Do you want to learn more? Check out:
The Series: The Philosophy of Flow
The Podcast: “Be Relentless Podcast”!