I have some time this week and was trying to think of something good to write about. I started thinking about success. What is success? What does it really mean? What makes someone successful? I understand that, obviously, there are different definitions of success, and the definition may vary from person to person. The definition of success may vary among genders, ages, backgrounds, faiths, and cultures. However, there may be certain elements of the definition that are universally applicable, and I would like to explore that.
There are different areas that success can apply to – success in life, success in one’s self, success in family, success in work, success in school, success in many things. Does success include love, compassion, and sensitivity? Does it mean being understanding? Does it include doing one’s best or being one’s best? Does it include helping others and giving back to society? Does it mean being a good leader, role model, or example for others? Does it mean “being there” for others? Does it mean encouraging others to be their best and do their best? Does it mean picking others up when they fall and being forgiving? Does it mean helping to prevent others from falling and helping them to proceed on the “right” path? Does success mean being thankful, grateful, and humble?
Success means all of these things. One cannot just determine “success” to be one thing. Success encompasses so much and has many different interpretations. If one has only financial success, but is not successful in other areas, such as being a good leader and being genuinely kind to others, then to me, that person is not a “success.” I have had friends in the past who are extremely wealthy and powerful, and that wealth and power may be a pedestal on which they stand, but to me, a bigger determiner of success is how they treat others and I cannot always speak highly of that. If someone has “success” through money, power, and influence who is also cut-throat and two-faced, that person is not a success, but has only used and thrown away others as stepping stones to get where they are today.
A similar perspective may also apply to people in the area of faith. In faith, a person is successful who can love, accept, welcome, and understand others. Sometimes, this is difficult to do, but with God’s help, it is easy. As a person of faith, I also remember that people who are leaders in the faith are people – they are not perfect, they do not have all of the answers, and sometimes, they may actually not be the “best” leaders – they are works in progress. To increase “success” in the area of faith would be for faiths to recognize flaws and weaknesses, and work to correct, strengthen, and/or improve upon them. Such success would also potentially carry over to believers and would be a better benefit for all.
Success in family can also mean different things for different people. Success in family relationships may mean being loving, caring, and supportive. It may also include being appropriately disciplining and structuring, providing opportunities for family members to be themselves, but also to be willing to be positively-guided by others in the family. While the circumstances of life have caused me to be a single parent for many years, I have consistently invested love, care, support, and quality time into my son. I have wanted for him to have the very best of what I could offer and provide to him in that area of success by just “being there” in a positive and supportive fashion.
Many years ago, one of the first students I taught as a full-time teacher in Stone Mountain, Georgia was a 6th grade gang member. Myself and the school resource (police) officer were his mentors. He was being raised in a family where both of his parents were addicts, and he therefore took to the streets to find his “family.” Sadly, there was never enough that my colleague and I could do or say for him to reassess his choices. This is obviously an extreme example of family relationships, but it shows the importance of “being there” for your kids and making the “right” choices.
And, what about success in one’s work? Again, people can view this in different ways. For some, work success may mean being the leader in your field – being the absolute best. For others, it may mean doing one’s best in what one simply loves to do without a need for being at the top. For others, work success may even mean earning enough to support one’s self or one’s family, or simply holding a job. We must also remember that being a good homemaker and/or invested full-time parent is also a round-the-clock job, as well; these days, that never gets enough credit.
What I have described are just some areas of what might be considered when we think about what success means and what it involves. To me, at this stage in my life, the biggest elements of success include loving myself and being truly happy with myself; loving and “being there” for my son; being happy in my work; and having good, positive relationships with others. That is true success for me right now. I owe it to God, myself, and others for having reached this point in my life. I feel I have nothing to prove. I am who I am. No one can take that away. I am happy within myself, and that is a great gift to have – one of the elements of success, for me.
We must also remember that mistakes and failures also help contribute to success. Sometimes, we can be down on ourselves and emotionally beat ourselves up over mistakes and failures. However, to view them more positively and realistically, we must see them as opportunities to improve, to do better, and to learn. Hopefully, we learn the “better” way of saying, doing, or thinking about something, and put that into practice. I see many people in my work and day-to-day life who appear to be on a repetitious cycle of failure because they do not learn from their mistakes, and do not use their strengths to help themselves improve. Sometimes, it is difficult and challenging to observe because we cannot change people – people have to be willing to change themselves. Other times, people take heed, and listen and learn, improving and bettering themselves; this is obviously wonderful to see and experience. But, with those folks who don’t believe they have it within themselves to do better, you can talk until you are blue in the face, and nothing will change.
Overall, a saying that I recently found, written by Barbara J. Burrow, captures some of the essence of personal success that I am thinking about and trying to describe here. The only things I would add or change would be that we sometimes cannot live life to the fullest, but we can live it in the best and most “right” way possible; and to obviously add in the importance of loving one’s self. And, when loving one’s self, I am talking about being kind, caring, accepting, forgiving, and supportive of one’s self, and not love in a selfish or narcissistic way.
That woman is a success…
who loves life,
and lives it to the fullest,
who has discovered and shared
the strengths and talents
that are uniquely her own;
who puts her best into each task
and leaves each situation
better than she found it,
who seeks and finds
that which is beautiful
in all people…in all things;
whose heart is full of love
and warm with compassion;
who has found joy in living
and peace within herself.
Therefore, to end, I must ask, what does success mean to you? What does success look like for you? How are you a success? And, if you do not believe that you have success or are a success, what can you do to change that and have a more positive outlook? These are some good questions to think about. Sometimes, only one person in someone’s life can help create a positive impact or be an important influence for success. It might mean the world to them, and I challenge you to be that person!