Success Myths: Success is Having Status

Feb 20, 2020

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." ~ Viktor E. Frankl

Damon reflected on his career journey, having worked for the same company half of his life. He was proud of the 60+hours he worked a week. "I've become who I am by working hard and moving up the ladder," he said confidently, yet with a slight twinge of emotion. Damon was, in fact, a hard-working and loyal man with strong family values. He loved his job, and his co-workers had become like family.

But things were about to change. A private equity firm recently bought the company and made it clear they operated quite differently. Downsizing was inevitable, and Damon now had to consider his next path in life. The thought of leaving was paralyzing at best and mortifying at worst. His mirage of success relative to status was starting to reveal itself.

Damon loved being independent, confident, and was a self-proclaimed man's man. Damon's drive for status through work accomplishment were familiar to me. I've seen hundreds of men experience this as I walked with them through their career transitions. As Damon worked through The Purpose Promise, the revelation of his true identity was knocking at the door.

Our discussion of where his sense of purpose originated from took us back to his childhood. It was during those formative years that he felt affirmed for his accomplishments and had a sense of worth from the accolades. It became clear that over the years, he felt his identity was rooted in his status. Comparing his achievements to others became a posture that drove Damon's view of success.

Status is an interesting word and means different things to different people. The dictionary gives two definitions. The first is "a relative comparison to others," and the second is "a state or condition with respect to circumstances." Think of what would happen in our society embraced that last definition as opposed to the first.

Damon and I looked over that second definition, and the tears started to flow as he realized his identification of status was more about a comparison to others than it was respect to his circumstances in life. "I missed baseball games, plays, and ballet recitals. I ignored signs of pain in my wife. I was not there for my dad when he went through his cancer battle. I let work trump it all because I believed my status, what I was doing, and who I was doing it for was the most important. And now, what do I get? No respect. No recollection of my sacrifice, no thank you."

So often, I see men come to this similar revelation. They've let the good (career, performance, money, and status relative to the comparison of others) trump the best (a life of purpose, relational significance, and a status relative to the integrated circumstances of life).

Damon has turned those revelations into new success factors. He has goals centered on who he wants to be. His identity changed from comparing status and rank to others, to envisioning the circumstances he's always dreamed about. He is now focused on an integrated life and is free from a quest to let status define his identity, sense of success, and behaviors.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Is your status relative to rank compared to others? If so, why?
  • How can you focus your status to be relative to the desired circumstances you most dream about?

Habits to Cultivate:

  • Be self-aware of your circumstances. Make success about honoring the most important areas of your life, not striving to compare against others.

If Damon's story resonates, we would love to walk with you on your path towards purpose. Start the journey today!

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