It’s All a Matter of Perspective and Definition

Back in August 2015, U.S. Virginia based Stayer University made the news headlines for its proposal that the definition of success, specifically as the Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines it, should be changed. The Webster’s definition of success – that it is to achieve wealth, respect, or fame – is, according to interested parties at the University, outdated and in need of revision.

It’s 2016: we have by now developed the understanding that success is more about happiness, fulfillment, and a quality of life than it is about wealth and prestige. And interestingly enough, the majority of these ‘conventionally successful people’ who fit this outdated Webster definition have actually all come up with their own definitions of success and what it means to them.

Ultimately then, the concept of success is subjective – how you personally define success is how you will experience it. We proponents of the gap year are completely on-board with a revision of the definition of success, since after all we have decided to leave the beaten track for greener, less trodden paths of our own. If you are finding that you are not able to achieve a certain ideal of success and are getting frustrated with the confines and limitations, we whole heatedly suggest that you too revise your personal definition of success and perhaps try a gap year as well. Often the best path to success is the one less commonly taken.

I had a friend who always said that after college she would like to take a year to travel the world. She had big dreams of all of the places she wanted to see and all the experiences that she wanted to have. After college, however, the reality set in that she had a certain concept of success to achieve, and that dreams of travel and experiencing the world were secondary to the achievement of that career end goal. She was under the mindset that she had to focus on her career first and then when she was established she could focus on ‘leisurely activities’ like travel.

Two years after graduation she was still trudging through menial jobs that were beneath her qualifications and aspirations, and trying everything to establish herself as a professional in her field. From attending conferences and seminars, constantly networking, building a well-crafted ‘professional persona’ that included an active online presence with multiple social media accounts and a well-maintained blog, and even paying attention to the finer points like using something like the 1&1 webmail for a professional email address. She literally tried everything! After all of this, she still found herself feeling disenchanted, disappointed, and utterly frustrated that she could not get ahead in her career and closer to this idea of success.

If you have never been to a point like this in your life, then I will just say that you are lucky. And if you have, then I will say you aren’t alone, and most importantly IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY! The question to ask is, “What will make you happy?” When I asked my friend this her answer was “to travel and enjoy the privilege of experiencing new things.”

Well, in the end this friend went traveling. She had the experiences she wanted to have and is actually now still working overseas. Her ‘gap year’ turned out to be the exact thing that she needed, not only personally to feel more fulfilled and happy, but to actually get her career moving along the path that she felt would lead to success. Although she originally thought that ‘dropping everything and just going’ was irresponsible and a deviation from her ‘career path to success’ she ended up making this gap year a worthwhile experience that got her on to a different – and arguably better – career path.

It’s amazing what a little re-thinking and re-defining can do. Sometimes the things that are holding us back in life from being happy, from feeling fulfilled, or from feeling successful, are actually all in our head. Sometimes you just need to take a chance, make a change, and redefine what success means to you.

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