Today I read an article with the title: how do you know when you are successful? The article pointed out that people we might think of as being very successful often don’t think of themselves that way. The author’s challenge was to ask: do you ever think you will become successful and how will you know?
This is a very good question, but my first reaction was that it also seems very straight-forward given just one variable i.e. the notion of success itself. You have to decide what success is for yourself. One general definition is the realisation of some worthy goal, but that goal itself, of course, needs to be defined. Once you know what your major goal is, then knowing when you are successful seems easy. Perhaps it is as simple as answering the question: have you reached your goal or not? As I said, that was my first reaction.
Just as a quick aside, how about answering that question (for yourself) right now: have you reached your major goal? Again, the possible answers seem straight-forward i.e. ‘yes’ or ‘no’ though personally, I prefer ‘yes’ or ‘not yet’. If instead, you are thinking to yourself ‘what goal?’ or ‘who says I should have a goal’ or something like that, then that’s ok. Sure, you may be missing out on one of the best tools for implementing change in your life, but still, that’s your affair.
However, let’s kick things on a notch. Assuming you have set goals for yourself, what happens after you reach your first major goal in life? Again, the answer may seem obvious: you set another one. There is nothing wrong with that response, in my opinion, but this is the very reason that I think many highly effective people also do not consider themselves to be successful. Such people are goal achievers, so they will always be striving; always working toward the next goal.
The foregoing illustrates why you need to get serious about your life purpose and your mission. When you have figured out why you are here and how you are to serve humanity (your life purpose) then you will be able to define your mission in those terms and your goals will become steps along the way. The race will be finally run when you leave this existence and until then, you will continue to live successfully as you live in harmony with your life purpose (or calling if you prefer).
So returning to our question, I really don’t think it is as simple as saying ‘yes’ I have achieved my major goal and so I am successful because, if you can do that, it is an indication that you have disengaged with life. If that is your response, what more is there left for you to accomplish? Other than tidying the garden and waiting for God, your done.
One of the things that has been a blessing and an encouragement to me personally is getting to know a number of people, advanced in years, who are still completely engaged in their mission and living their life purpose. My Aunt Ruth, when she was in her eighties, still did the shopping for the ‘elderly’ people who live in the neighbourhood – what an example. Another quite elderly lady I got to know recently is doing voluntary work to help the community. These people are successful.
Success, I believe, is living out your life purpose. Nothing else will bring you the same level of satisfaction because finding and fulfilling your own life purpose is the reason you were born. When you are doing that, you are living successfully. It may be that you will leave this life before you have achieved some goal to which you will be working because it is very likely that you will also be a goal-achiever and so you will, quite naturally, be working on your current project when that happens.
But success is not the achievement of a goal or a mission; it is living life successfully. For those who are living their life purpose, success is ultimately not a destination; it is a journey.