Redefining success

We spend semesters in classrooms learning the trade of our future careers, searching for the perfect internship, and then crossing our fingers that we’re good enough for consideration.

This past summer, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and into the brutal and busy streets of New York City.

It was a journalism major’s dream. A summer in the city making connections, learning the way of life (and subway system), and hopefully foreshadowing what the future could be.

If you asked me a year ago to define success, I would have told you that it was something like this:

Suc-cess (n.): Whatever makes me better than the next person.

While I was interning in New York, I was able to connect with the executive assistant to the editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine, Meaghan O’Connor, who considers having reached the start of her dream career.

“Something that I wrestle with a lot is the fact that I’m in a job that a million girls would kill for. And sometimes it’s hard, challenging, and fast-paced and you’re exhausted,” O’Connor says.

We all have our own versions of success, of “making it.” It could be landing a dream job, or finding the perfect spouse, or even perfecting the recipe/craft that has been haunting you on Pinterest for weeks. Whatever the goal may be, it turns into a sin when it starts to consume us.

“I think this [job] had always been the pedestal,” says O’Connor. “I was looking at the job like it was the be all, end all. And now I’m realizing that it’s only just the beginning.“

My conversation with O’Connor reminded me of God’s command in Leviticus: “Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.”

Have I turned “success” into an idol?

Despite landing an internship in the Big Apple, I wasn’t fully satisfied. It wasn’t enough. It didn’t fulfill me. After weeks of making connections with the “right” people in the industry, my thirst wasn’t quenched. And finally, after a mental breakdown one night because I wasn’t able to get an informal meeting with an assistant magazine editor, I realized that an interview would never fill that hole, never truly make me feel complete.

That night, Philippians 1:18 and 21 spoke to me directly: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice…. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Let me say that again. To live is Christ. To die is gain.

That verse hit me so hard. I suddenly realized that my life on this earth is not for my life on this earth. My purpose here is not for my own comfort. For my own success. My life is for His name, for His kingdom, for His honour.

So, if you were to ask me for my definition of success today:

Suc-cess (n.): Dying to my own desires so that I’m able to do what God wants to do in and through me.


Photo (Flickr CC) by Stefano Corso.