Often success is thought of as a salary, a title, how comfortably you live, or how well known you are. Success is very often used as a synonym for financial stability.
During my undergrad program, success was easier to measure: it was a grade, a GPA, the comments from the professor. Success was determined by the level of achievement in any given course or on any given assignment. But once I got outside of that, I realized that success in my undergrad was not determined by the grade I received—the GPA I walked away with. Success in this context could be measured by how much I truly learned, but also by how much I opened myself up to the course, and how much I allowed what I learned to change and shape me. Whether I agreed or disagreed wasn’t the point, rather, it was the critical thought.
I have found that many courses have affected the way I view everything around me. These courses have pushed me to consider statements that seem “every day” and consider their implications. What I learned from these courses gave me the strength and knowledge to take a stand. To confidently enter debates and know that I had the information to back my arguments. It means listening to what they have to say, too. I also learned that not everyone is going to change their opinion, no matter how well developed my argument might be. Success is being able to take these lessons into our lives and allow them to shift our perspective.
Success, to me, doesn’t reside in the final grade (though, of course, I worked for those grades) but, in retrospect, it resides in how open I was to the experience, into learning and being changed. There were times through my undergrad where I was stressed out over where my GPA was standing. I would crunch numbers to see what grade I needed to get in my remaining courses to get that “desired” GPA. What I have found, now, is that those grades didn’t really matter, that GPA hasn’t affected how I find success now.
When we are in the midst of working toward something we can lose sight of what success means, we can become bogged down in the narrow definitions of what it means in that moment. I think it is important to take a step back and really consider what is going to be the measure of success looking back, rather than in that moment.
Success is movement, moving forward, and not allowing yourself to stay stagnant. Success is being open to learning new things and allowing yourself to be changed by them.
It is important to consider what success means to us, maybe it means being financially stable—regardless of the financial position. Maybe it means chasing something that seems improbable. There is no wrong answer. But this is something we must define for ourselves rather than try and fit into someone else’s definition of success.