Social Awareness

The success formula

What is the ‘formula’ for success?

Everyone seems to be searching for the right success formula. Although, sometimes we don’t really know what that looks like, we just know it’s something we want (or at least we are supposed to want it). The quote above, dares you to follow your own path. It suggests: When you search for success, don’t follow other’s expectations. But, stop and think about it for a moment. Is the pursuit of success itself an expectation? Somehow, we just know we are supposed to do it. When did we get stuck in this quest? Who set it?

Successful Expectations

Sociologist and Historian Michel Foucault proposed that self-discipline was used to govern people through their own actions. He believed people ‘govern themselves’ according to established mindsets. These mindsets shape and guide their choices and lifestyles. He called this shaping ‘governmentality’.

In very simplified terms, governmentality is control by changing people’s mindset or way of thinking. The whole point is to ‘govern’ the way you behave by convincing you, not only that something is good for you, but also that you want it. The idea is that if you want it, you will make every effort to do it. Another way is by convincing you that not to want it will have a social cost (such as shame, labels, and the like).

Then, media reinforces the options of what you ‘should’ want using discourse. Discourse, limits the options to express and discuss ideas. It is a framework for conversation about a topic. It often presents options in black and white and in such a way that choosing one of the sides is simply unacceptable. In this way, a discourse dominates the public conversation (dominant discourse). When this happens, people tend to choose the most popular side, shame those who oppose and dismiss as irrelevant or simply not discuss the options left outside of the discourse.

In this case, success is defined in terms of possessions, knowledge, fashion, and similar things while failure is the absence of these. This discourse excludes any other possible measures of success, such as meaning or purpose. These are excluded from the conversation indirectly placing them in the category of failure, which makes their pursuit undesirable or less important.

What is success and who gets to define it?
Should each individual have their own measure?

How do you measure it?


Text: Mitzi Pomenta
Image: Dikaseva