Redefining success in a new American landscape
For all of my lifetime, success in America has been defined by one factor – money. As much as we say we value generosity, commitment, honor, intelligence, ingenuity, or creativity, we doubt if we, or other people, actually possess those qualities if they are not translated into money.
The message may sometimes be subtle, but it is clear ” if you are not financially successful, you are a failure. And, the message continues, because we live in a country where there is opportunity and equality, if you are not succeeding financially, there is something wrong with you. The message is that you are lazy, unintelligent, weak or maybe just cursed. That you are worthless. That there is shame in not having money.
As our economy crumbles, we watch the pillars of financial success fall around us. Maybe we are falling, too.
Our idea of success is also beginning to unravel. Our selves, our families, our friends and neighbors, and even the ‘big’ guys and gals in finance are suddenly no longer wealthy. This powerfully challenges our assumptions about success ” are we all suddenly failures? Are we all suddenly shameful and worthless?
I am already hearing one term frequently on the news and in conversations ” “resiliency.” We are starting to give some credence to the ability of a person to adapt and survive through adversity. But if a person does not adapt and survive financially, does this indicate failure? Are we keeping the same measure of success but just using different words? Or are we moving toward a broader definition of success?
None of us has the absolute power to decide how success is defined on a national cultural level. We have power to influence the conversation, however, especially now, when the basic structure of our economy may be shifting.
You influence the conversation by asking your self, “If I were the ‘decider,’ how would I define success? Would it be a narrow or broad definition? Would it be based on intentions or results? Are there particular qualities I value, such as wit or good parenting?”
We influence the conversation by standing strong in our own definitions of success and letting other people know when we see them as successful.
I, for one, believe making up our own minds about important issues such as how we define success and having conviction in our own perspectives are important parts of what it means to be a successful person.
” Danielle B. Klotzkin, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, provides psychotherapy for clients who are looking for a way to move forward through relationship issues, problems with alcohol, drugs, or managing money, eating and body issues, trauma, grief and loss, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. You can contact her at (530) 470-2233.