Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Definition of Success

The Definition of Success
What is success? Everyone has their own answer to that question. For most people it means making a truck load of money, for a few it's starting and growing a close-knit family, for fewer still it's contributing something significant to the world regardless of the financial reward.
There are some things that I'm still pondering and wondering about in my head, things I am yet to figure out, but BALANCE isn't one of those. It's a cornerstone value of my life and it benefits me enormously. Yes, balance is to me a non-negotiable key to LIFE SUCCESS. Why, the whole universe runs on intricate balance. Note the term "life success". It isn't just money, or just family, or just having a great social life. It's the intentional balance created  and maintained between them.
But balance isn't life success in and of itself. It's just a way of making sure you don't just achieve success in a single area of your life and fail in the others.
Let's address the core issue. What is success really? Because it certainly is not money, contrary to popular belief. I've heard that, particularly at Christmas time, people are fond of jumping to their deaths from atop the Michel Angelo Hotel in Sandton. For those who don't know, Sandton is a very wealthy area and the Michel Angelo is affordable only to the truly rich.
The first thing to realise is that nobody is pursuing physical things. No one is pursuing money, or a spouse, or a holiday house in France. Those are all just vehicles that we have associated to meeting our deepest emotional needs - needs of certainty and security, variety, love and connection with others, feeling significant, growth, and contributing to the lives of other.
We are all pursuing those vehicles (the car, the spouse, the holiday home etc), not for the sake of the vehicles, but for the sake of the feelings we think those vehicles will make us feel. They are a means to an end. We want money because we think it will make us feel secure, or people will love us and think we're awesome, or we'll feel important (significant). Most people believe money will give them happiness despite research showing that coming into money only offers a short term increase in happiness.
Life is all about feeling. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying we should rely on our feelings, simply that we all pursue certain mental and emotional states - certain feelings. We all strive to feel those feelings, some feelings more than others depending on the hierarchy of our emotional needs.
If you think about it, really, think about it, success is the degree to which you can meet those emotional needs, regardless of the vehicle you use. Who is successful? The rich man who fails to achieve happiness and fulfillment, or the average Joe who has achieved the same desired emotional state on an average income? The average Joe has met his emotional needs without money. The rich man failed to achieve his goal for happiness which he thought money would give him. He's rich, but far from successful.
Who is really successful? I'm not beating up on the extremely rich, I'm all for making tons of cash. I'm just using it as an illustration since money is such a big indicator of success for most people. We strive for it more than anything else because we sometimes wrongly associate it as the vehicle to meeting our emotional needs.
You see even though each person has their own definition of success, the reality is that each person is aiming to meet the same six human needs, only using different vehicles to do so. The degree to which you succeed in experiencing your most treasured mental and emotional states is the degree to which you're personally successful, regardless of the vehicle you've used.
If I think money will give me happiness and fulfillment, and then I make lots of money but I'm unhappy and unfulfilled then I've failed, as rich as I am. Everybody will be looking at my Ferrari and telling me how successful I am, but I'll have failed to achieve my most treasured mental and emotional state which is why I wanted the Ferrari in the first place. The Ferrari will just be the remnant left over from a failed attempt at reaching my end goal, and instead of representing success, it will represent my failure to achieve what I actually wanted, what all human beings want regardless of geographic location, culture, race, or gender: Security, variety, love, significance, growth and contribution.
You may think that pursuing your own happiness and fulfillment as the definition for success is selfish. It's not. Realise two things:
Firstly, no matter how selfless an act, people on a fundamental psychological level don't do anything for selfless reasons. I've been taught and many Christians believe that when they "get the mind of Christ" they start to do things for totally selfless reasons, not for what they get out of it. But even Jesus "endured the cross for the joy that was set before him." Even when people do something 'selfless' it is because it makes them feel good for having done it. Many people cannot accept this truth, BUT realise that it is not a bad thing; after all, a good person would feel good if they did something for someone else. A bad person wouldn't do it at all.
Secondly, two emotional/psychological human needs are the need for growth and the need for contribution. These are needs of the spirit and without these two needs being met it's impossible to experience fulfillment in life. So in pursuing these needs of certainty, variety, love, significance, growth and contribution, and in your success in meeting those needs, you cannot but help others and contribute to the world.
"The happiest man in the world is more successful than the richest man in the world"
This entrepreneur and author shows you How to Become a Make-It-Happen Person by relating lessons learnt while doing everything from training with an Israeli Special Forces slash Mossad agent to practicing exotic, sensual Salsa Dancing.