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Amira McLaughlin

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You Define Success, Not Others!

Early on, for me, it was changing my status from a “high school drop-out” to a few college degrees — this is how I leveled-up.

Success. At one time it was an ugly word because I thought I was unable to achieve it. How could I achieve success? So much of my life was full of pain, there was no room of success to live — I thought. The mind can play tricks on you. My mind was telling me, “No, you cannot,” when in actuality, “I could,” and I did. But not before believing the lie. 

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Well, how horrible could it have been for me to think this way? Just a little bit about me. 

Before I began my journey to where I am today, there was a chapter in my life where through choices I made created a most challenging existence. Yeah, I met the challenge! We all do, don’t we — or we don’t. Anyway, let’s get back to it. 

Though I am not going to begin at the beginning, I will share my life experience close at that point. 16 years old. 

At 16 years of age, I was pregnant with my first and eldest daughter, who is 27 years old by the way — by a man who battered me often. That’s funny…I have told this story to myself and a few others and rarely mentioned the battering — maybe once or twice in the last decade or so. As you continue to read my blog, I am sure more of my experiences will be revealed to you and me. 

By the age of 19, I have two daughters and their father is deceased. 

Throughout the coming years, I devoted myself to raising my daughters, increasing my knowledge, and business skills. I considered myself an autodidact of sorts. When I think back at my younger self, I praise her for thinking of herself in that way although she did not have a formal education at that time. I could’ve easily thought of myself as a high school drop-out. During this time period in my life, success was being a good mother to my daughters, surviving the self-made conditions of my life, and making sure we all live to fight another day. That was a success — surviving.

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There will be gaps in this story — it’s a blog. Shorter is sweeter. 

Fast forward several years, I am 33. Finally, I returned to school. This is a success for me. I attempted going back to school a few times and had to try again — never-failing because failing happens when you stop attempting (as my mother would remind me). Even then, success was completing my education, but I wanted to prove to myself and others that I could do it. Not many people showed faith in me at the time. So I had to finish, to be the contradiction, to prove I could and I did. 10 years later, I overachieved educationally, some might think.

By the age of 43, my educational feats are as follows:

  • a GED (general education diploma)
  • a bachelors degree in political science AND English
  • a masters degree in public administration
  • a masters degree in education

Pursuing and achieving a higher education was my version of success, of leveling up. Based on where you are successful is the next level — leveling up in any area of your life. Don’t compare yourself to others. Their level of success is not yours.

To many, success in life includes a nice car, fine home, impressive job, and an attractive spouse. Yet, people with all of these things aren’t any happier than those with less impressive lives. It’s because all of those achievements only serve to impress others. They do little to enhance the quality of your life.

No matter how difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

— Stephen Hawking

Redefine success with your own definition:

  • What is your passion? If you can determine the central focus of your life, everything else becomes much easier to determine.
    • Do you want to write a great novel? Focus the next 25 years on creating and raising a family? Explore the world? Explore yourself?
  • Career. What do you like to do? Most people consider money first, but what would you like to spend eight hours per day doing for 40+ years? Of course, you’ll need to make enough money to pay your bills and pursue your passion.
    • Let’s assume that your passion is writing. Your career choice should support your interest in writing. That means your income is sufficient to be fully engaged in your writing activities. You might even consider a career related to writing, such as an editor.
  • How much free time do you want to have?
    • This isn’t just free time to pursue your passion, it’s also free time to enjoy other things in life, such as your family, friends, hobbies, or attending the ballet. A successful life would include enough free time to satisfy all of your interests. Your choice of career is a big part of this.
    • Limiting your non-essential activities is also necessary to create the free time you desire. Avoid joining clubs, committees, and other voluntary activities that don’t add sufficient quality to your life.
  • Consider the end of your life. Imagine you only have a few months to live. What would you like to look back upon? Think about the kind of life you’d have to live to feel good at the end of it. Your time is limited, so make the most of it.

Truly, a successful life is one that allows you to accomplish or experience those things you consider to be most important. Those accomplishments won’t be the same for everyone. Avoid allowing society to determine the definition of success. Decide what is most important to you and then create a life that supports those things.

Pursuing society’s definition of success will result in confusion, resentment, and disenchantment. Be brave enough to find your own path.

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