Success, particularly in these uncertain times, can be as elusive as finding your exit when you’re lost on the highway in an unfamiliar city. What does success look like and feel like? Can you define it? And how do we know when we are there?
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary defines success as “a favorable or desired outcome; also the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence”. If you’re an athlete, success is about winning – the race, the game, the match, etc., and performing at a high level. The vast majority of us are not great athletes, so how do we define success?
This same notion holds true for wealth, power, etc. Most Americans will not achieve financial wealth and power in their lifetimes. Does that mean success is not an attainable goal for them? Of course not; what it does mean is that success for most of us will be defined in terms other than the number of trophies on the mantel, or the size of our bank accounts.
So, what is success and how do we know when we are there?
One of the things I have learned over the years is that success is not a series of start and stop events. Moreover it is a continuous journey of self discovery. Unfortunately, far too much energy is devoted to the short-term. We see this being played out in every aspect of our daily lives. The need for instant gratification and an endless pursuit of unfilled needs, wants and desires has moved us away from a longer-term focus. And strategies that are more beneficial to achieving personal growth and success.
As George Leonard points out in his book Mastery, “The bottom-line mentality doesn’t work in the long run, and is eventually destructive to the individual and society.” Mr. Leonard identifies a number of examples where we are taught from an early age to do one thing only so we can get something else. Get good grades so we can go to college. Go to college so we can get a good job, and so forth.
When we falter, we beat ourselves up mentally and fail to recognize that these perfect failures are a part of the learning process, and can guide us to future success.
Is success a feeling or a reality?
Now, I don’t mean to get existential on you, but I do think it is a worthwhile question to consider. So next time you’re relaxing on your favorite lawn chair looking up at the stars, ask yourself this same question. Or when you are at dinner with your loved ones, take a moment to gaze into their eyes, you’ll know the answer.
Success has always been there, you just didn’t recognize it before.
Enjoy the journey!
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