Finding Meaning Amidst a Success-Driven World

Do you feel like you’ve been encouraged to chase after a certain vision of success? Maybe you’ve always been a high-achiever, and your family and community have their own ideas about what you should do with your talents. Perhaps you feel pressure to make lots of money or worry that you’ll never feel like you’ve “made it” unless you earn a specific title in your career. Or maybe you fear that if you drop your perfectionist tendencies, you’ll start slacking and never meet your goals in life.

We are constantly receiving implicit and explicit messages about what we should or should not do. Sometimes these external pressures can be hard to tell apart from your own personal desires, but it is entirely possible to carve out a life that has meaning and worth only for you. How? Consider some tips that can help you carve out your own path.

Realize the Possibilities

First, it helps to do some brainstorming. Think outside the box and try not to let your fears, judgments, or others’ ideas steer your thinking What does a meaningful life look like for you? What would your days look like? What would you be doing? Imagine what that particular life would look like and see what that feels like.

The important thing about realizing the possibilities is to not put any limits on your ideas so that your mind can feel free to explore the things that would really excite you, even if they sound silly in the moment. It’s okay if this does not align with the expectations of those around you. Remember, you get one life—and you should get to live it on your own terms.

Identify Your Passions

Another way to discover what brings your life meaning and vitality is to explore what you’re passionate about. Which hobbies have you put on the back burner because others didn’t approve? Were there any activities, sports, or artistic pursuits that you loved as a child but gave up on because other people made you feel that they were silly or impractical?

It is time to get in touch with your “inner child” and get back to the hobbies you naturally gravitated towards. You do not have to bury your true passions to be successful. Embracing them will take you further.

Set Boundaries with Loved Ones

As you begin making changes in your life, your loved ones may feel confused. Certain people in your circle may be very attached to a specific definition of success. And when you “stray” outside of that, they may feel thrown off.

Remember, you have every right to set boundaries with those who do not respect your decisions. It is okay if they have questions about your new choices, but you do not have to appease people who disapprove when you choose a new path for yourself.

Be Intentional

In the past, you may have felt like you allowed others to make decisions for you. Perhaps you were fine with sitting back and letting other people dictate how you should live your life. But now, it may feel like the right time to actively choose what you want for yourself. You do not have to sit in the passenger seat for your own life. To practice being intentional about paving your own path towards a meaningful life, write down a few concrete steps you can take to gather information about activities that excite and interest you. For example:

  • scheduling informational interviews with people who are doing things that you are interested in
  • reading books, blogs, and articles about the topics you’re interested in
  • watching videos about people who do what you’re excited about
  • taking classes related to your interest

Refine Your Path

As you gather information about these options, you may notice different thoughts and feelings that come up throughout the process. Keeping track of how you respond to what you have learned and reflecting on it may help you refine what you really want. You may also want to connect with others who have similar interests as a source of support and inspiration.

As you discover more and more about yourself and connect with a community that reflects your values, you may be better able to build a life that you are excited to live — each and every day.


Are you struggling to determine your own definition of success? Do you feel that you’re being forced into a life that you don’t love? Deviating from what some may consider the life of a “high achiever” can be nerve-wracking, and you may benefit from a therapist’s support. Reach out to us today to discuss how we can help you.

Joanne Chan, Psy.D.

Author: Joanne Chan, Psy.D.

Joanne Chan, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with adolescents and adults with primary anxiety or OC-related conditions. Some of her specialty areas include, phobias, panic disorder, social phobia, post-partum anxiety, OCD, hoarding disorder, trauma, and Tourette’s disorder/tic disorder.
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