Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How do you define success?

Regardless of our own conscious views on what really constitutes a successful life, many of us will fall into the set-point of thinking that success, by and large is primarily measured monetarily. That is after all the prevailing paradigm.

Think about some of the conversations you may have had in the past. "Oh yeah, he's a really successful guy but he just doesn't seem happy" or "Even with all his success he/she was never really happy...."


When we define success by one measure we miss the importance of what success actually is. And sadly we define ourselves further into a paradigm into which it is deemed to be crucial to be a 'success' in life even when that 'success' is defined by a measure that may not lead to any degree of lasting happiness, life fulfillment or satisfaction.




[mass noun]

  • 1 the accomplishment of an aim or purpose:the president had some success in restoring confidence

  • the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status:the success of his play

  • [count noun] a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.:to judge from league tables, the school is a successI must make a success of my business[Oxford Dictionary Online:]

The primary definition of success in other words is: The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.
And so success is predicated upon what you want to achieve, not what is considered to be the norm in society.
But does the definition of successfully denote what it means to be successful?
The secondary definitions of success certainly show how synonymous the idea of wealth (or fame) have become with success.
But we must consider that if you desire for and plan for material wealth and in the achieving of this you don't find a measure of lasting happiness, and a sense of life purpose and fulfillment then is that indeed moot? And ergo could you really say that you are a success?

To truly not just be considered against a societal benchmark to be a 'success' but to truly feel and truly BE successful one must measure their success against the measures of their own making.

When I wrote 'Choosing You', as with any other ventures I have been involved with, I did have certain financial aspirations and goals for the book. When I began to evaluate what would make the book a success,  my conditioned mind immediately began jumping to ideas of profit, revenue and the sales that would need to occur to make this a reality. None of which there is anything at all wrong with!...except that it wasn't truly a measure of my success.

I had many nagging doubts around releasing the book due in part to a reticence to put myself 'out there' to criticism, but also in part because fundamentally if you realize that your measure of success is different to that of the prevailing world view then you can become worried about whether people will understand; and of course that they will think you are a failure (i.e. not a success) if you don't reach their measure of success...even if you reach yours. 

My friend and mentor, author; Dr Ian Brooks ( encouraged me to release the book for me, and be defined by my own measure of success. Sage counsel that I was blessed to receive!

I had to sit down and refocus, recentre and contemplate what 'success' really means to me and by THAT measure decide what success for the book would truly mean to me...

My measure of success for that, my first book was simple:
I would consider the book a success if I positively affected the life of just one person. 

The measure I used to quantify that was that if I got just one unsolicited testimonial from someone that I didn't know (because friends and family will often be glowing in their praise regardless....bless them!) I would have accomplished this goal.

And so when I did receive my first unsolicited testimonial from a woman in South Africa I could justifiably say that my goal had been achieved and that the book, I could feel proud to say, was a success. There have since been many testimonials like that and although I couldn't retire off the proceeds of the book sales nor live in the lap of luxury because of the royalties, as those were never measures of success for the book  it is moot. The exercise was a success!

And all of this is not to say that the financial rewards of our labours are not important. I need to eat and put a roof over my head just as you do (and it must be said I was proud of the sales of my first book). But the achievement of gross levels of wealth is not a factor in determining my success. Creating a positive impact on the world and helping people to live happier, healthier lives takes precedence over the abject pursuit of material wealth.

That more than anything defines what I consider to be a successful life for me. To see someone smiling where before there was a frown. To have someone leave my office pain free after a life of debilitating hurt means more than any amount of money could. That is my life of success....

So how do you define success for you?

Cliff's Note: My next book 'Time Rich...Cash Optional!' will be available early 2011. Follow me on twitter or join my facebook page to stay updated!

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  1. Anonymous8:14 am

    good read

    why try to validate existance though? success seems to be an attempt to measure one's worth. I dont need to be measured by anyone, including myself. i choose to strive for happiness daily by doing the things i enjoy with the people i enjoy being around. however if i am not happy for a day it is not a failure to be judged. likewise if i am happy it need not be deemed a success to be praised. it just is. not to be measured or weighed. the desire to be so is a road to unhappiness.

  2. Thanks for your feedback! You make a great (and very interesting) point.
    My thought is that goals and objectives are not necessarily a measure of ones self worth, but instead way-points by which we enjoy the journey of joyous experience. By reaching those way points we enjoy 'success' but I do agree that the attachment to outcomes is ultimately self defeating.
    Whilst living in the moment, planning for the future and achieving goals I do believe that happiness can be achieved.
    ~ Cliff