Success means something different to everyone, and it all depends on what it is that we value. What do we want out of life? Each of us measures success differently, and we all get to decide how we will determine the level of our own success. When we base our definition on external factors, such as how much money we make or how prestigious our job title is, we create insecurity. Salary, job title, and even the company we work for can change at any time. Nothing is guaranteed. If these are our only measurements of success, then we have set ourselves up for failure. What if we lose our job? What if we have to take a pay cut? Consider what this will mean for our self-worth… Will we still be successful? Luckily, the power to decide is in our hands.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Perhaps it is not the concept of success that is the problem, it is the way we define success. If we define success as lots of money, getting to the top of the organizationational ladder, two BMW’s in our garage, and a designer house, success may be dangerous to our health.
If we define success as living each successive moment to its fullest, we may have money, prestige, and possessions, and this success may not be disastrous to our health. The difference is in the attitude and in the beliefs behind the attitude.
In fact, it is often easier to gather the accouterments of success that it is to live a successful life. Living a successful life demands our presence, our presence in each moment.”
As Corita Kent says in the quote that opens today’s passage, “Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.” How true this is. Life is one long string of events, unfolding moment to moment, one after the other, until we die. If we define our success by our ability to simply live each moment as it comes, to be present and mindful in all that we do, we are far more likely to be satisfied and consider ourselves successful. If, on the other hand, the criteria for our success is more detailed and rigorous—such as requiring us to earn a certain salary, drive a certain car, own certain possessions—not only will we be less satisfied and less likely to consider ourselves successful, we will have made our success dependent on criteria that is outside ourselves and therefore outside of our control. Circumstances can change at any time, and the level of uncertainty and insecurity this creates causes a great amount of strife in our lives, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes we have to rethink the way we define success in order to discover that we’ve been a success all along.