How You Define These Three Concepts Defines Who You Are

Dec 04, 2021
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I thought adults had all the answers when I was a kid.

As an adult, I realized it’s all an illusion. We don’t but we’re better at pretending we do. In my twenties, I was a zombie mindlessly following others without stopping to ever question what really mattered to me. I let society trick me into taking the path of least resistance even though I felt empty inside.

I didn’t want to live life like that and I don’t think you want to either.

It starts with a simple pause.

Rather than living by other people’s definitions, you can make your own. People discuss some concepts as if everyone thinks the same way as them but what’s meaningful to you might be mean nothing to me. The last thing I want you to do is to copy me. I want you to understand yourself better so you can resist when life’s flow is dragging you in the wrong direction.

There are three concepts people often use in a way that conflicts with how their inner self sees the world.



You have the same 24 hours as everyone else on Earth. We all spend each moment doing something so what exactly do you mean when you say you’re busy?

Busyness has become a plague because many people only use it in the context of work. I’ve lost count of the number of times my friends and I canceled on each other last minute because we were “busy”. I don’t remember any of these nights but I chose to sacrifice quality time with people are care about for them. It doesn’t make any sense.

76% of US workers say work stress has negatively affected their personal relationships.

Today, when I have dinner plans then as far as the rest of the world is concerned, I’m busy. Clients will have to wait. I define busyness as whenever I’m doing something which adds value to my life regardless of whether it makes me money. These boundaries have made a huge difference to my mental health.

At yoga class once, I remember a woman who kept her phone right by the side of her mat. She tapped the screen whenever she got the chance to read the previews of her messages. Halfway through the class, she packed up and walked out. She took a call right outside the door. “Hi, sorry I didn’t reply. Yes, don’t worry, I’ll have your report by tonight.”

My phone was on airplane mode on the other side of the room. I was too busy looking after my mental health to check client emails.

Look at your own life. What do you say you “need” to do when it’s actually a choice? Most of the time, bosses and clients can wait because you’re allowed to have a life. You cannot tell yourself you value something if you don’t think you’re busy while you’re doing it.



“I’m going to destroy him. I’m going to make sure he loses his job and no one ever hires him again. How can he do this to me? Everyone knows I have integrity. I have to stand up for my principles.” — Acquaintance circa 2015

Listening to this rant on the phone, I couldn’t help but think the speaker defined integrity in a way I couldn’t understand. This was all a reaction to him thinking a colleague had taken credit for his work despite having no evidence. A day later his boss promoted him because of his colleague’s glowing feedback.

The way I looked at this person changed after this incident. Our definitions of integrity were too divergent for me to want to stay in touch.

Everyone thinks they are principled because everyone makes stories up in their head to justify their actions. How often do you hear someone say they lack integrity? It’s made the word meaningless. Peer pressure relies on distorting people’s sense of integrity to follow the herd even when their internal right-and-wrong alarm bell is ringing.

While I strongly advise you to follow the laws of your country, for non-criminal acts, the lines can be blurry. Whenever you overstep a line, you can just move the line and sleep easy at night if you don’t stop to define them. What does being a good person mean to you? Are you living by these principles or bending them?

Startup founders are classic cases of people who lack self-awareness when it comes to integrity. They’ll preach about the virtues of the environment and mental health whilst polluting and overworking their staff. Don’t allow there to be a disconnect between the person you are, and the person you think you are.



Take a look at Instagram. I bet it won’t be long before you see a post about someone celebrating their engagement with a fat diamond on their finger. People need to spend two months' salary on this diamond to prove their love for their partner.

The last line isn’t true at all. It was made up by a mining company to sell diamonds.

So much of what we believe about success is distorted by the between 6,000 to 10,000 ads we are exposed to every day. Advertisers want us to value material wealth so they can buy the stuff they think makes them look successful. It’s a vicious cycle and we all play our part in keeping it going.

One of the greatest tragedies of a developed society is the blurring of the meanings of success and wealth.

I choose not to define success as being rich. My fashion style is simple and you won’t see me spending $1000 on a jacket to impress people. If I need to buy someone’s affections then it’s automatically a poor trade in my eyes.

I got an email from a stranger from the other side of the world last week. She told me my articles helped her through a low point during the pandemic when her mind was attacking itself. Even the memory of reading her email gives me goosebumps. Success.

I won’t pretend to be a martyr. I want enough money to live comfortably and the clarity of mind to care for my mental health. My version of career success is a sustainable long-term positive impact. In life, I want to be the person who makes the good times better for the people I love and the bad times not so bad.

What’s your version of success?

Amar's Letter

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