Success: An end result or a way of life?
We can often be strongly influenced by the idea of success in
our everyday life. We can easily measure another in these terms, claiming so
and so is successful or projecting our own wish and motivation for success.
The drive for success is a motivating factor behind many of our actions, and
yet often with a seemingly undefined measurement of value.
What then is success? How do we determine what is successful or unsuccessful?
What do we measure it against? How does our perception of success influence
our view of ourselves? What do we expect from success? Is it an end result,
something you can keep and store up or is it a process leading to further process?
Is it to do with accomplishment, a career and how much money there is in the
bank? Is it to do with fame, holding a respectable position of some kind, or
with happiness and well being?
How a person feels about themselves is often linked with how successful they
think they are, and often the criteria by which we measure that success is governed
by what others might think. We tend to use comparison with others as a system
for evaluating our own efforts. At school the successful person is the child
with the highest marks, with the right answers, the fastest runner, the highest
jumper, the person who scores the most goals. In later life it is the richest
person, the celebrity, the one who holds the best position, the best researcher.
In practically every area of human accomplishment the measurement of success
involves comparison with others and a competition for the prize of being the
most successful person?
this notion of success is a very unfortunate one, because it means that there
will always be many more people who are not successful than those who are. If
being successful is determining upon our feelings of well being and our view
of ourselves, and if we measure ourselves against the standards of the best
of human accomplishment, then this will mean that most of us will be in the
realms of mediocre in just about everything we will ever do, which would result
in most of us being unable to feel good about ourselves.
Is there another way to look at what success is? In the Webster’s New
Universal Unabridged Dictionary the word success is defined as “the favourable
or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavours”. This is an interesting
place to start. It doesn’t define the end result as the success, but rather
the completion of a process. And we all know how pleased and full of satisfaction
we can be when we have done something we planned to do - finished a job, completed
a task, had a good conversation or progressive exchange with someone - according
to how we hoped or wished it would go? Or when we can cross out something from
our to-do list, or accomplished something we aimed for, or managed to have things
done clean, tidy and just right. We know it and often feel tremendously well
and satisfied, even if only for a very short moment.
This way of approach doesn’t focus on a pre-determined end result, nor
does it compare the success of one person with another. This way of approach
allows for success to be the possible outcome of every effort or action that
a person may undertake. It also allows for the success of one person to be very
different to the success of another. This seems very reasonable, for each person
is unique, with their own storyline, internal strengths, weaknesses and capabilities,
so it doesn’t make sense that success should be measured by the same standards
- Success is in the realisation of an intention - not the result of
an action but rather the beginning of it.
- Success calls for success.
- Success is belonging to the things of one’s choosing.
- Success is in the ability to change and meet new requirements, knowing
that the successes of today are the stepping-stones towards a new tomorrow.
In a similar way success has different natures throughout a person’s
own development journey. The success of taking those first steps for a toddler
is different to success for a 10 year old, which is different again for a 25,
40 or 60 year old. For what is a success for the 10 year old Freddy is not the
same as for Freddy at 25 years old since the capability has extended greatly.
It differs with age, with the circumstances people find themselves in, by experience
gained, developing wisdoms, with different physical and mental strengths within
each stage of life. The feeling of success seems to attend when one has tried
with the fullness of oneself, with one’s current best, one’s current
When all these efforts and moments and many tasks in thousands of different
ways are being done and registered as successful, then that gives access to
the feeling of satisfaction and well being. That feeling of satisfaction and
well being is a powerful motivator. And within the satisfaction is a sense of
confirmation and ratifying of oneself and what one does, which adds to a person’s
self esteem and confidence. Thus building success gives the sense of being able
to do, and being able to credit oneself with the results of one’s own
And this can be achieved in almost everything we do from small to large. It
can be applied to everything and for everyone - for a child, a teacher, a nurse,
a doctor, a housewife - in completing a simple task or a bigger project and
endeavour. The success of a person is that they do what they choose to do within
the fullness of their current best capability.
By the law of magnetic attraction, like goes to like - success creates the
opportunity for greater success. Often when a person is experiencing success,
they approach the next issue with greater confidence and self esteem and trust
in their own capability, which summons the best of them - and this makes for
a good starting place for whatever we intend to do.
And this brings us to the question: How do we think about the successfully
It can often happen that we can undertake one task and, without stopping for
breath, the next task is on the agenda, or the next project, the next whatever,
and the moment of pleasure and satisfaction vanishes quickly within the hurry
and scurry of life. But what is left in the person who has just had the success?
How does he or she now think about it? Does it add to their self-esteem? Do
they give credit to themselves?
Sometime we seem afraid of giving ourselves credit for the successes we have
had or for a successfully completed task. In other situations perhaps we or
others blow up the success out of all proportion and make it more than it is.
Whether prone to inferiority or superiority complex, the confirmation of something
well done is important. If we don’t, we are making what we do unimportant
and we are unlikely to attract more success this way. Try as an example to encourage
the small, day-to-day improvements and successes in the trend of things, rather
than only counting the very big, outstanding successes. For many small successes
will aggregate towards the feeling of having a successful life.
Here is a very simple exercise for improving one’s self-esteem by valuing
Each evening, before going to sleep, scan through the day in your mind and
reflect back on what you have done that day. In going through that look out
for successes (including the small ones, the actions that you could easily take
for granted) and make them conscious, write them down and allow them to give
confirmation back to you.
This is perhaps a small grain of sand on the seashore of a large territory,
but thinking about success in this way could change a person’s view of
themselves, and their self-esteem and credit for themselves, and their belief
in their ability to build their own life. It could also allow a different way
of thinking in approaching other people. For the value, respect and acceptance
to who and what one is, is the value and respect and acceptance one has towards
Anne Böhringer, Iet Veenland and Yvonne Briand Christensen