How do you measure success?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what success means. Everyone has a different definition. To some, having a million pounds in their account means they are successful. To other’s it may be making a difference in people’s lives, learning a new language, taking up an instrument at 60, leaving a bad relationship, raising high achieving kids….the list goes on.

I think to me, being successful means to be happy. And that’s not to say that we’re walking around with big smiles on our faces, oblivious to the goings on in the world. But rather, to have a sense of contentment. To be able to ride the peaks and troughs of life and not be too affected by them. To strive to do better, earn more, be better but not to let that affect how you feel in general. To me, success is a constant work in progress.

I was talking to my cousin R a few days ago and she provided another answer. When discussing success, she said “Success is growth” and on that particular day, her comment hit the nail on the head for me. Success is growth! Look at where you were last year, she suggested, and look at where you are now. Have you grown? And by growth it encompasses all aspects of your life. Physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. I certainly believe I’ve grown a lot since last year.

I was chatting to another friend P and when talking about success, she talked about success being all about perspective. We live in a world where each person is unique, and yet we don’t act like they are. We expect people to fit into our model of the world, we expect our children to model behaviour that is acceptable to us. And yet who ever said our model was the right one? It’s right for us. She also went on to mention value. She does a lot of good work in an organisation close to her heart. It doesn’t give her any money but it gives her great internal satisfaction. Is she successful? In her opinion of success, she is.

Validation was something else we talked about. When you believe that what you’re doing is right and you’re truly happy with it, then how other’s feel about it and what other’s think and say to you, don’t affect you. You don’t need outside validation when you are content with who you are. I know, that’a a big one isn’t it? We live in a society that thrives on validation. I’m not immune to it. I was super excited when I hit 500 followers on Twitter and when I get lots of likes on Instagram and Facebook. But as I mentioned before about success, it’s a work in progress.

When you ask most new parents what they envisage for their children when they grow up, they may say things like “I want my child to be a doctor or a dentist. I want my child to play the piano or be an athlete.” But essentially, when it comes down to it, I think most parents just want their children to be happy. And yet most parents (myself included) also seek to impose their views on their children, their model of the world. And our views and models, while based on experience, are also based on our fears.

I think it’s so important to allow our children to BE who they want to be, even when we don’t particularly like it. That’s not to say we let them go off the rails and behave in unsociable ways but rather to act as guides and beacons of light. I love this quote by Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

What does success mean to you?

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