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Rethinking standards of success


When it comes to measuring standards of success at Stanford, most of us don’t pause to consider how our definitions of success impact our feelings of inadequacy or recurrent anxiety about the future. With that in mind, here are a handful of ways to measure success beyond the traditionally celebrated bounds of academic or professional achievement.

1. Through others

Consider the cliché about shared success being the best kind of success. Think of all the people in your life making strides towards their goals and take the time to congratulate your friends on running that 10k or working up the courage to confess their feelings to that special someone. Although the success of others may seem unrelated to you, the fact that those you care most about are flourishing is often a sign that they’re receiving the support they need to flourish – support from you. There’s nothing more valuable than succeeding in being a good friend to others.

2. Through the act of trying something new as a success in and of itself

Despite whether or not you ace your first Stanford midterm or reach the top of the rock wall on your first climbing attempt, the very fact that you endeavored to succeed in a new pursuit ought to be a metric for growth.

3. Through the ability to pursue a passion

Similar to the idea that trying something new ought to be celebrated, it’s important to value the very opportunity to pursue a passion, no matter how far along in that pursuit you may be. The fact that an idea has sparked and you’ve begun to work towards it is as good a measure of success as the desired mastery of such a passion.

4. By counting the number of “thank you”s you exchange in a day

Cheesy (and somewhat morbid) though it may be, my roommate once wisely reminded me that no one will care about your GPA when you’re dead. Rather, people will remember how kind you were to them and the gratitude that you showed them.

5. Through the number of times you choose positivity in times of difficulty

Although this may seem like a passive rather than conscious action, opting to remain positive and keep trudging forward with an appreciation for the little things is an act of success in its very nature of perseverance.


Contact Cecilia Atkins with your definitions of success at catkins ‘at’ 

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