The way we have been looking at success is all wrong.

Success isn’t a destination. It doesn’t come from achievements, things, or even work—it isn’t something to be obtained or a benchmark that can be reached. Socio-culturally we buy into ideas and stereotypes of the collective that says “This is what success looks like, how you should behave, and what you should do with your life.” Real, authentic success isn’t a validation from society—it’s the overwhelming feeling of alignment in your life.

So many people experience stress and distress from feeling like they are locked into what they are supposed to be. Your value as a person is based on your effort and how you measure up to other’s expectations and definition of success. It’s the six–figure per year corporate manager that really wants to be a phenomenal professor, but can’t sacrifice his “success” to go back to school, and do what he really wants to do.  Living like this can feel like self-harm. And it is.

The truth is, success is a state of being and a way of living, not an end destination. It isn’t benchmarked by events or “life acquisitions,” and certainly not by collecting pieces of the “American dream” puzzle. Success is a deeply personal experience and will have wildly different outcomes for each person. To find your success, you have to foster and grow the relationship you have with yourself, so that you live in an authentic way. Instead of trying to be successful, you should try to be who you are, naturally, before the world told you who you should be. The real, true definition of success is when you stop trying and you start being.

What does this mean in everyday life?

Success isn’t my job description, my title, my address, or the number of friends I have. Success is simply living a life that is aligned with who I am designed to be, from the inside–out. There is no distinction now between the personal me and the professional me. It is all the same. I always feel like the same person. In my career before becoming a Psychologist, as an executive in medical sales, I felt like I was fractured—a different person, at different times, who wasn’t even necessarily “me.”

It isn’t just my personal experience that makes me compelled to share this message. While I was feeling my personal success transformation, I began to also see the parallels with many of my clients through my work as a Psychologist. It is because of the overwhelming collection of human experiences I have observed through my work, I am sure the current definition of success does not serve our physiological, psychological, and even evolutionary needs.

I have witnessed the American version of success living in misery, over and over again. And let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. After working at a high end treatment center, with wealthy award winning actors, athletes, captains of the industry, sons of astronauts—you name it—I can tell you that success has nothing to do with status, money, family or fame. Most of my clients have the American prescribed success—multi millions, trust funds, fame or high power jobs; but the reality is that for these people, their “success” itself can be tortuous causing self-abuse to get it, maintain it, and deal with having this level of it. Because what seems worse than not being successful, is having “success” and then losing it.

So what does success really look like?

Based on my own personal transformation and witnessing countless clients turning their lives into more meaningful, fulfilling ways of existing, I can tell you that success happens when you stop striving to get something—achievements, money, and things—and start being who you naturally are in the context of your daily life. This doesn’t mean we stop working towards and reaching our goals, it just means we no longer let these things determine our perception of self-worth.

We all have strengths, we all have things we are naturally good at, and things we really enjoy. When you create a life around these things, success in all aspects of the word follows. It is my deepest belief that we are not designed to be who we are, as individuals without purpose. Lean into what makes you a real “You”, and all that status, money, and stuff will likely follow; but more importantly, you’ll feel successful in the way that your life will be aligned and fulfilling.

It is much more important psychologically to be successful in the way you like, because no matter how much cash you have, if you don’t feel it inside of you, you don’t need it at all; and most importantly, it will not be your “success.”