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Success to me means being content

emotional failure success content staircase


Why should success be solely dependent on our achievements? To me, success simply means being content with my life.

For decades, the Singaporean definition of success has been pretty rigid. Traditionally, it has always meant earning lots of money, having a stable job, and starting a family. Recently however, young Singaporeans have been encouraged to think beyond society's cookie-cutter mould of success, and define our own successes. 

This is heartening, but it does not move me. After all, I am not yet sure of what I want in life, and this concept of success seems to still be dependent on achievements. I wonder, why must we label events or milestones in our lives as successes or failures? If our successes are determined by our life achievements, these will constantly change as we move to different seasons of life. That means we would have to constantly pursue success and it sounds tiring.

My perceptions of success and failure had begun to shift when I was in secondary school. As I became more aware of the world around me, society's materialistic view of success stressed me. I thought that without a good career or solid education, I would be considered a total failure.

Soon, I learnt that it is more important to be content.

money career success failure zaideen
Success doesn't always have to mean earning lots of money or having a high-paying job.

I realised this a few years ago as I was waiting for my N level results. I was scared because fear of failure had always been my motivator. All I could think about was potentially failing my N levels and whether I could be promoted to Secondary Five. I never aimed to top the cohort, instead I just aimed not to lose.

Just a day before receiving my results, in a flurry of worry and anxiety, I asked my parents what would happen if I went to ITE. Surprisingly, they told me that they were okay with it, as long as I tried my best.

I realised then, that it didn't matter to my family if I was not able to live up to society's expectations of success. What mattered instead, was the knowledge that I had tried my best, that I was satisfied with my efforts and therefore content with whatever the results would be.

Clemens family photo cute dog
I don't think it matters to my parents which path I tread. What matters to them is for me to be content with my efforts.

Success, to me, now encompasses emotions, personal growth, and spirituality. It means being content with my life.

That means failure is when I regret not doing things to the best of my ability, because that would hinder my 'success'. This important realisation has greatly shaped how I approach life.

It has taught me that the gap between what we define as success and failure has widened. Just because we are unable to achieve success does not mean we have failed.

Perhaps someday, more people will be able to understand that.


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