Lifestyle Work

What does success mean to you?

Success.  What is it? With the Rio Olympics in full swing, there is a lot of talk about winning and being on the top of your game.  Athletes achievement are celebrated.  Winning a gold is the epitome of being successful.  Well, that’s what we are told anyway.

According to the dictionary, Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”  (Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those posts.)  So yes, a gold medal is the epitome of success.  Does that mean that winning silver is not a success?  What about Bronze?  It all depends on what you consider your personal definition of success to be.

How Others View Success

The general view of success has long revolved around Money or Power.  Usually both.  Michael Douglas’ character in Wall Street was the embodiment of success.

With the rise of social media, there are some new elements coming into play.  Popularity seems to be a success measure now.  Look at social media “stars” like the Kardashians.  By virtue of their “popularity” they wield a different sort of power.

The Olympic View

But let’s go back to the Olympics.  Michael Phelps is without question an Olympic superstar.  At the time of writing, he had just won his 23 Olympic Medal, 19 of them Gold.  This alone is a record.  He is considered to be one of the greatest Olympians ever.  By all definitions, Michael Phelps is definitely a success.

Then we have Yusra Mardini who fled Syria with her sister.  They ended up, like so many other refugees in a small dinghy that was capsizing.  She and her sister got into the water and swam the boat to shore.   It took 3 hours.  Within a year she was competing in the Olympics as part of the Refugee team.  She won her heat but was not fast enough to make the semi-final.

Does that mean she was not a success?  Not at all.  Her life’s goal was to swim at the Olympics – and she did.  If the only goal is winning a gold then very few will be a success.  But by Yusra’s own definition she is a success.  Personally, I think her greatest swim was the one into Greece, not Rio.

What is YOUR View?

What is your own view of success?  Personal success should be based on your own personal ideals and values.  And you may have multiple success criteria for your life.

If you are a parent your view of success might be based around raising independent and happy children might be how you feel successful.  If you are running a business, it might be to achieve a certain financial level or helping a certain number of people.

The key is to identify what is actually important to you, not what everyone else thinks it should be.  If the definition of success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, then you need to work out what your own purpose is.  What are you aiming for?

Ask Yourself

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine what success means to you:

  • What will make me happy?  Money, adulation, comfort, relationships, the feeling of being useful
  • How much money would make me comfortable?  What amount feels like success?
  • What will make me feel like I have achieved something?  Consider multiple areas including family, work, friends, community
  • Do I want to leave a legacy? What would it be? Happy children?  Art? a Financial legacy? A garden?
  • Consider the deathbed question – on your deathbed what will you look back on with pride? with satisfaction?  with regret?

If you think about what is really important to YOU, then you can define success for yourself.  Maybe working all the time to build up a business or to get to a certain level will bring you satisfaction.  Maybe a more relaxed life focussed on children is for you.  Maybe something in between works best.  Only you can know.

Choose your own definition of success and let that guide you.  The world will try to impose its own definition.  Ignore it.  Your happiness is under your control.

So tell me, what do you consider success to be? I’d love to hear from you below.

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