Success means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Ultimately, however, only we can determine if our lives travel in the direction of our most cherished values. No matter the influence and advice of family and friends, we must come to our own conclusion about what it means to be ‘successful.’
Inspirational author and poet Maya Angelou once wrote – I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’ Making a living is important, but we should never lose sight of the fact that what we do from 9-5 is only a small part of our identity, and that what we do from 5-9 is just as important to who we are and what we might become.
Another way to think about success, from writer Cullen Hightower: A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success. Instead of accounting personal accolades and material accumulation, we can choose to focus on what our work brings to other people, even if it is a small glimpse of hope or happiness.
Perhaps no rags-to-riches story is as compelling as Ms. Oprah Winfrey, but she wisely downplays the trappings of what modern society calls ‘success’: If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, never have enough. We should want to meet our goals and aspirations because they are worthy or meeting, and not because we seek financial or material reward.
Albert Einstein, arguably the most successful scientist of all time, had this to say about success: Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value. In other words, instead of building up ourselves, we should focus on building up something that has value to someone besides ourselves.
And finally, the great philosopher Socrates warned long ago of pursuing ‘busyness’ for the sake of appearing busy: Beware the barrenness of a busy life. Just because something requires a lot of effort doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worthwhile. We must be wise enough to step back, evaluate our position, and determine whether the present course is where we should steer our destiny.