That elusive, intangible thing that we’re all searching for day after day, month after month, year after year.
What is success? How does one achieve success? How long does it take? Is it even possible?
What Is Success, Really?
The basic definition of success is incredibly simple:
Success is the realization or accomplishment of goals, desires, or purpose.
The problem is, as you can see from the definition, that success is a different thing for each and every person.
Society has its generic version of success — the high-rolling, powerful, attractive person who vacations on a yacht and commands legions of personnel — but not everybody wants that. In fact, there are millions of people who think they want that version of success but actually don’t.
Let’s take a look some different ideas of success. Here are a few common versions:
- Having lots of money and/or power
- Having lots of free time
- Being good at a sport or hobby
- Being popular and well-liked
What’s really funny, though, is that if you look at people much later in life, success becomes an entirely different thing:
- Finding love or friendship
- Raising a good family
- Spending time with loved ones
- Staying healthy
But success doesn’t just vary with age, either. Think about what it means to be successful in a third-world country:
- Finding enough food to eat
- Staying warm and dry
- Protecting your family and friends
After all of these definitions, what is success really? If it varies so much from person to person, how can it even be called the same thing? Here’s the truth of the matter:
Success is knowing and accomplishing things that are important to you.
How To Be Successful
You’ll notice that the above definition of success has two very different parts. Knowing what is important to you, and Accomplishing the things that are important to you. For most of us, the first part—knowing—is actually the most important.
Understanding what is important to you, what makes you happy, what makes you feel good about yourself, etc… is very difficult, but it is critical because we often get the answers wrong. Many people spend their lives struggling to become wealthy, only to find that once they have wealth it isn’t nearly as important to them as other things like, say, love.
Ask yourself a few questions, and think about what would make you feel successful:
- If you had Goal XYZ — would you really be happy?
- Why is Goal XYZ important to you, how will it make your life better?
- Pretend you’re stranded on a desert island, what would you want most?
Based on what’s really important, you probably already have some areas where you’re very successful. It’s easy to overlook that fact sometimes, but it’s important to remember.
Most people also have aspects of success that they haven’t yet achieved. For many middle-class Americans, Europeans, Canadians, and other first-world country dwellers this elusive element is money.
Accomplishing the elements of success that you don’t yet have requires hard work and perseverance, there’s no other way to put it. If something is that important to you, though, it will be worth working for. To put everything together:
Knowing what’s important to you is key, and recognizing achievements you’ve already made will make you happier. Goals and accomplishments that you don’t yet have will take hard work to accomplish, but it’s worth it if they’re really important.
Success is a Journey… A Long Journey
Imagine for a moment that you’ve achieved your current biggest goal. Whatever it is, imagine that you now have it. In fact, imagine that you accomplished it 6 months to a year ago, and the initial glow has worn off.
Are you just going to stop now? Are you going to be satisfied that you have the big goal, and just relax for the rest of your life?
You’re probably going to act like the rest of us humans and find some other goal to work on. If you wanted money, and you now have it, you might find that you want to do more fulfilling work. If you wanted to do something you love, and you’ve found that, you may decide that you want more money.
The truth is that success is a really long journey.
In order to be be truly successful throughout your life you need to be happy during the entire journey, and not just at the big landmarks. Most worthwhile accomplishments take so much work that it’s not possible to reach them without maintaining happiness and solid morale throughout the process.
The other problem is that some things are just not within your power to control. I’m a firm believer that all goals are reachable with enough effort, but realistically there are things that you might never accomplish.
That doesn’t mean you should give up and settle for what you have. It means you need to be happy the whole time you’re struggling and fighting for your dreams. In fact, the very act of struggling and fighting for your dreams should make you happy.
Let’s look back at some of the main points about success:
- Success is whatever you want it to be — whatever is important to you
- Knowing what is important is the real key for most of us
- Enjoy the success you have, and enjoy working for the things you don’t
What do you think?