Who exactly defines our success?
Let's face it, we live in a get-rich-quick, happiness-chasing time. We often permit those around us to determine how "successful" we are based on what we drive, where we live, and our job title. Yet this is terribly misleading and often the wrong way to look at the situation.
How often we permit others to dictate our level of success has a direct correlation with our sense of joy in life. If we constantly use others as a barometer for our success and performance we will inevitably fail to meet the expectations of the only person who matters, yourself through God.
So where do we go wrong and how do we fix it?
Money as a measure of success
In modern day culture, your net worth or financial earnings are often how others determine your level of success. Perhaps you even have judged your level of success based on your earnings or financial worth only to realize you are further behind than you originally desired. Money is tricky and not off limits for determining your level of success, but only if used wisely.
Money can certainly be an indicator of success if used as a small indicator of how valuable your time is to others. However, what about a hedge fund manager focused on tobacco interests? Sure, you could earn a lot of money but would the world really miss you if you were gone? Likely not. In contrast, take a community leader who earns income coaching individuals to value discipline, consistency, and faith and were paid well to do so. Perhaps you have the same earnings as the tobacco investor, but the service you provided to the community was more than just value from a monetary perspective.
Ultimately, using money as an indicator of success works best if you are positively impacting the community with your time and skills. Otherwise, the amount of money you make is irrelevant and will be a misleading measure of success.
Happiness as a measure of success
If money is not a perfect measure of success, then how about happiness? Happiness is often the pursuit of "feeling good" which is much more difficult to quantify than your financials. Happiness is often fleeting and requires persistent pursuit to feel. This means the pursuit of happiness can also be synonymous with the race to decay.
So why is happiness another imperfect measure of success? Shouldn't I get to choose if I am successful based on a day-to-day sense of happiness? Not entirely.
Again, happiness is a pursuit. Feeling joy however is a choice. Joy for the opportunity to wake up again. Joy for the ability to hug a loved one or call a friend one more time. Joy for the ability to lend a friend a hand or hold a door for a complete stranger.
The ability to feel joy is a door that opens outwards, towards others. The pursuit of happiness however, is a door that opens inwards or implies selfish tendencies. Experiencing joy on a day to day basis is a much better measure for determining success for yourself, but again, is hard to quantify.
So if not money, and if not happiness, then what should one use a measure of success in life?
Your habits as a measure of success
I have heard it said many times, and it bears repeating, "how you do anything is how you will do everything".
In recent times, attainment of success and the pursuit of the American Dream are a centerpiece of Western culture. If the journey continues this way, we fail to recognize what matters most on a day-to-day basis- our habits.
Our habits are really what defines us. Your neighbor is not somebody who loves to go to the gym; rather she is an individual who goes to the gym everyday. Your cousin is not somebody who eats healthy; rather he is somebody who fresh prepares vegetables everyday. A close friend is not just financially wealthy; rather she is someone who regularly stays abreast of her personal finances.
We are creatures of habit. Our habits define us thereby defining our level of success. If you are someone who does not have any positive habits that contribute to your ability to give to the world, then you must start building them.
Look first to build habits that help reconstruct yourself. 50 pounds overweight? Time to start becoming the type of person who puts out running shoes everyday. Up to your eyes in debt? Time to get to work and start tracking your money and maximizing your effort towards debt payoff. Feeling foggy and having difficulty with cognitive performance? Time to up your game on learning and self-improvement.
One you begin feeling like you are building momentum and reconstructing your own abilities, now you can look to develop outward habits that impact the community. For example, start a blog and educate others with quick reads on what you have learned. Start a community walking group with your newfound exercise habits. Call a friend, or even a group of friends, and show them how to start making healthy recipes. The sky is the limit.
"Success is our ability and efficacy to help others on a consistent basis."
Our individual habits permit us to improve our effectiveness in helping make the world around us a better place. Ability and efficacy. It takes both to be truly successful in our endeavors. We need to care for both ourselves and others in a continuous process, similar to the idea of sharpening the saw. Simply put, you are either using the saw (helping others) or sharpening it (helping yourself).
Not sure where to start? Perhaps assess what you love to learn about or love to do and see if there is a way to teach it to others. If you do this consistently (i.e. build a positive habit) you will be well on your way to a fulfilling and impactful life.
Until next time...