Sometimes comparisons can be useful... but where your sense of satisfaction and fulfillment are concerned, they're definitely not.
Like if you constantly you compare yourself to other people. Do that and it's easy to feel unsuccessful. If you're an entrepreneur and you compare yourself to Richard Branson, you won't win. If you're a musician and you compare yourself to Taylor Swift (especially if the point of comparison is earnings), you won't win. If your goal is to change the world and you compare yourself to Steve...
That's the problem with comparisons. No matter how successful you feel, there is always someone who seems more successful. There is always someone better, or smarter, or wealthier, or (seemingly) happier.
So stop comparing. Just focus on you. Then look for these signs that show you're more successful than you might think -- and, in all likelihood, that you're happier than you think, too.
1. "Do I have close friends?"
Close friendship are increasingly rare; one study found that the number of friends respondents felt they could discuss important matters with has dropped from an average of 2.94 to 2.08 in the last 20 years.
If you have more than two or three close friends, be glad, not only for the social connection but also because the positive effect of relationships on your life span is double what you get from exercising and just as powerful as quitting smoking.
And where professional relationships are concerned...
2. "Can I choose the people around me?"
Some people have employees who drive them nuts. Some people have customers who are obnoxious. Some people have casual acquaintances who are selfish, all-about-me jerks.
Guess what: They chose those people. Those people are in their professional or personal lives because they let them remain.
Successful people attract successful people. Hardworking people attract hardworking people. Kind people associate with kind people. Great employees want to work for great bosses.
If the people around you are the people you want to be around you... you're successful.
And if they're not, it's time to start making some changes.
3. "Do I have enough money to make positive choices?"
Many people live paycheck to paycheck. Worse, many have to decide between necessities. (I can remember having to choose between filling a prescription for an antibiotic and putting gas in my car.)
If you make enough money, and don't spend so much money, that you can make positive choices about what to do with some of it -- whether it's investing, or taking a vacation, or taking classes... anything you want to do instead of have to do -- then you're successful, both because you've escaped the paycheck-to-paycheck grind and because you can leverage that extra money to become even more successful.
4. "Do I see failure as just training?"
Failure sucks, but failure is also the best way to learn and grow. There will always be trials, challenges, and obstacles -- but perseverance always wins in the end.
Every successful person has failed, numerous times. (Most of them have failed a lot more often than you. That's why they're so successful now.)
If you embrace every failure -- if you own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time things will turn out differently--then you're already successful.
And in time, you'll be even more successful, because you'll never stop trying to be better than you are today.
5. "Am I a giver?"
We've all experienced this moment: We're having a great conversation, we're finding things in common...and then, boom: The other person plays the "I need something" card.
And everything about the interaction changes.
What once appeared friendly now feels needy, almost grasping...and, if you're like me, you feel guilty if you can't help. (And especially if you decide you don't want to help.)
As my buddy Adam Grant shows, people tend to fall into rough categories: Some takers, some are matchers, and some are givers.
And it should come as no surprise that people who feel successful tend to not be takers. They accept help if offered, but they don't feel the need to ask. In fact, they focus on what they can do for other people.
6. "Do I put other people in the spotlight?"
OK, maybe you did do all the work. Maybe you did move mountains. Maybe you did kick ass and take names.
If you aren't looking for praise or accolades, that means you're successful. That means you feel proud on the inside, where it counts. That means your happiness comes from the success of others. You don't need the glory; you know what you've achieved.
If you enjoy the validation of others but don't need the validation of others, you're successful.
7. "Do I feel a real sense of purpose?"
Successful people have a purpose. As a result, they're excited, dedicated, passionate, and fearless.
And they share their passions with others.
If you're found a purpose -- if you've found something that inspires you, fuels you, makes you excited to get up, get out, and achieve -- then you're successful, regardless of how much money you make or what other people think.
Because you're living life your way--and that's the best sign of success there is.