A photo of a snow leopard head in profile. Staring into the distance.

Who builds your model of success?

Previously I wrote about what success means to you and that everyone has a unique model of success. It’s interesting discovering where our models of success come from. What were the prompts for us to include certain features in our model?

Starting to build a model

At an early age we gather most of our information from our surrounding environment. Our parents, who are usually our primary caregivers, are a major influence. We get strong clues from them pointing us at what makes life better for us. We learn which behaviours that are rewarded by our parents. We also see how they behave, and we mimic their behaviours.

As we grow from babies and toddlers into children with independent thought, we may look at our parents and see things we don’t like. We see they are getting worn down by poverty, so we become determined to earn money. We spent hours by the roadside as Dad tried to fix the car, as a result we believe a reliable car is a symbol of our success.

We start to compare our lives with the lives of our friends. We see the good bits and feel envious. Personally, I’m glad there wasn’t social media when I was young, I can’t imagine the pressures that brings to a young developing child. Even my son was beyond his teenage years before the age of all pervasive social media really arrived.

The influence of media

As well as the inevitable comparisons from social media we all view traditional media too. It’s full of advertising, as is social media and the internet. Remember Tony the Tiger? Did you ever want your parents to get you Frosties for breakfast? (Why a tiger for Frosties anyway? Why not a snow leopard?)

Did you grow up with the earliest Star Wars films, the He-man Universe, Pokémon, or the like? All were media with strong connections to toys and other merchandise.

What kind of car, perfume, clothing, body shape and lifestyle does the media try to sell you? How much money do you need to be able to afford the lifestyle of the successful people you see in the adverts and dramas we consume daily?

Success in the workplace

Traditionally, success at work means promotion, pay rises, becoming a leader, owning the company, then retiring with a big pension. But is it really the case? Success is a feeling, not a label you need to earn by being unhappy.

Given the amount of time we spend at work it’s hardly surprising that our need for success at work is a major factor in how successful we feel.

What messages have you received about how to be successful at work? How do you need to behave to get that success? The message may vary a bit between large corporates and small businesses, but the basic requirements are the same; hard work and loyalty brings success.

Forming your model

We’ve only looked at some big picture of influences on your model of success. What do they have in common? They are all external influences. That doesn’t necessarily make them good or bad, but it does mean that other people are trying to influence your model of success. They also try to mould it to their benefit, either subconsciously, like your caregivers, or with precise manipulation, like advertisers.

There are also intrinsic influences, a disability, hidden or visual will have an impact. However, how we feel about it is often heavily influenced by external factors.

What other external influences have you felt?

I believe that having a model of success that isn’t true to yourself is one of the biggest factors in people developing stress. Knowing yourself and what is important to you, is critical in becoming truly successful and happy.


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