What is Success – Is it Money, Happiness or Something Else?

Abraham Lincoln said “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” With so many of us resolved to succeed in life what is the measure of whether or not we are? What is success? Is it directly connected to the size of our house or the amount of money in the bank? Does lack in any area of our life mean we are not successful? Is it fair to set a goal and only allow ourselves to feel successful when we achieve it specifically?

As parents and adults we are constantly in a position of pointing out success to our children. When they first learn to recognize their letters we are proud and make them feel successful. When they can finally write the letters, form them into words and make sentences we again point to their achievement and mark it as a success. When they learn to play basketball and just stand on the court, we tell them they have succeeded. Then they make their first basket, first foul or years later make the All star team and in each of these situations we are telling them, showing them that they are a success. Are they more successful now that they have made the All Star Team, or is all their toil part of the bigger picture of their success? This behavior goes on and on when comes to the success of anyone but ourselves. When it comes to ourselves we are often so focused on the goal that we miss all the little baby steps of success along the way. Not only is this unfair, it gives way to the breaking of our resonance to succeed at all. Remember, Lincoln believed we only had to want, plan and intend to succeed to actually do it.

The definition of success is “the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.” The second definition reads “the attainment of wealth, honors, position or the like.” Of course, the dictionary also states that the opposite of success is failure. When you read things such as that it immediately makes us feel as though we have to a have a fancy education, be well paid, have plenty of money or ‘be’ something in order to call ourselves successful. It makes more sense to agree with old Lincoln’s take on the matter and see success as a matter of will. Sure there are things we all want out of life and there are things that we feel would make us happy, but our ideal of success and our own personal definition of what that means is what determines if we are truly successful people on life or not. Pinning our achievement on a goal that can take a lifetime to unravel is committing to living a life where we are often disappointed, paying attention to our lack rather than abundance and an unrealistic version of what success really is. So the question returns, “What is Success?”

Cliché phrases coin success to be linked with happiness, when truly they are not (or shouldn’t be) one in the same. If we are chasing the dream of wealth then just because we get wealthy does not mean we will be successful or happy, for that matter. Plenty of rich people are miserable. Plenty of happy people are poor. Plenty of poor and rich people are successful in their life; it’s just a matter of perception. Most unhappy miserable people are that way because of their thinking and no amount of money can or will change that. So perhaps success has more to do with how and what we think rather than what we do. Maybe what Lincoln means is that as soon as we decide to be successful, we will be!

What if we looked at success as a daily exercise to do and try our best? What if success was keeping the plan in mind but not dismissing our walk as we get towards it. Especially while we are raising families we should strive to cultivate a daily exercise in seeing what it is we have accomplished, rather than what we have not. Simple things like getting all the grass cut, paying all the bills on-time, making our children laugh, cleaning the pantry-finally, having the time to drink a cup of coffee or read a book, not just washing clothes but putting them away – should all be looked at as minuscule successes in our walk through life. If our eyes are fixed to tightly on the prize we covet; the big job, nice car, fancy house or college education then we develop a tunnel vision that blinds us from feeling successful and being successful every day of our lives. It is normal and healthy to want more in life; this makes us responsible citizens and diligent workers. It is not healthy however to not feel successful until you actually have the more.

If we could learn to treat ourselves like we treat our children we would systematically be able to transform our lives from a constant struggle against the tide to a relaxing swim that takes note and is proud of all the baby steps we take on our way to our goals. Probably success should be defined as a feeling word. If we feel successful, we are. If we intend success we will achieve it. If we want success it is waiting for us. Success is a conscious decision to have, do or be something. That something should be happy.

If our goals are fixated then we are ultimately forced into living a life of failure. Let’s pretend you want the perfect job or a business venture to work out in a certain manner. Each day is not a struggle to achieve the goal, each day is one which we have successfully worked toward our goal. Yes, some days are better than others and we will hit bumps in the road and bad times, but picking ourselves up shows us that we are in fact a success. Lincoln also said “All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.” Maybe its due time to start plucking the thistle in our own lives and planting seeds of thought that will grow into successful flowers. These flowers could remind us that each day, each breath and each accomplishment we make whether large or small is a personal success. Pay attention to the things you are doing right now that will make your dreams come true and they will come true even more quickly.

It can be surmised to say that real success, true success takes a lifetime of unfolding. What is success? Success is looking at our lives from the spot we are in right now and measuring them with some more words by Abraham Lincoln. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” At the end of every day do you sit down and think about all that it is you have accomplished that day or do you remember every thing you didn’t do? If the latter is true, then time has come to free yourself from your own limitations and see yourself and your life for the success that it is. Lincoln never lied and he stated firmly that once we decide to be successful and make a commitment each day to seeing our success, we will find that success greets us at the door. Success is not solely the accomplishment of our big dreams and goals; rather of living a life that feels totally fulfilling and makes us happy by realizing the simple things that are important each day to our well being and fulfillment. If we wake in the morning and intend to have a successful day, we will find many things in our routine that we can begin to look at as achievements. That is what success is!



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