What is success? Really? (Part 2)

In a previous post, we talked about the perception of success and what we think we know about success. We also asked some important but pretty uncomfortable questions so that we can rethink about this concept and try to find our own definition.

Ok, so let’s start diving into this!

The best definition of success that I have ever come across is Earl Nightingale’s definition that reads: ”Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal”. I also liked this one: “Success isn’t getting there. Success is making the decision that you’re going to get there and move towards it”.

Ok, just take a minute to think about that. Got it? Well, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t, because I’ll try to break it down for you as much as I can.

Children ask THE hardest questions, don’t you think?

Well, let’s imagine that your 6-year-old nephew asks you this question: what is success? How will you explain it to him? Is there some ready to use the definition that can cover the meaning of this word or does it change through context? If it changes, then what are the variables of this change and how can you explain success to him in a way that he’ll understand?

Still hard? Well, yeah! Because if we use that definition I talked about earlier, you’ll have to figure out how to explain a lot of concepts to this kid without being too blubbery, like I am being here, LOL. You’ll have to explain to him what “progressive realization” means, what the word “worthy” means and what the heck is a “goal or ideal”.

Let’s start with the last one for now, shall we? Well, that destination can be a goal that you’re trying to achieve. So if my 6-year old nephew asked me that question (Thank God he didn’t before I wrote this post, I would have gone: “AAAAH, I don’t know”, and he will be like:” but why don’t you know? are you stupid, antie?” And I’ll be in much more trouble trying to answer that!), I would first ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. Let’s say he wants to become a pilot, or an engineer, or a teacher, or a doctor or whatever! I would say that success is to be aware of what is important for him, deciding to make it happen, getting closer to it and keep updating it with time. That means that if he now wants to be a teacher then he should do whatever he can to get to that goal, but if somewhere along the way he develops this urgent desire and dream of being a fireman, then he should decide to be one, and figure out the necessary arrangements to make that happen.

Well, I don’t know if my imaginary nephew will get that, but I like to think that he’s smart and that he’ll be like “Thank you, Auntie, for giving me the most valuable lesson of my life when I’m 6 years old”. But if he doesn’t, no worries, he will have plenty of time to digest it. Although I would have tried my best to explain it to him, I still kinda feel it doesn’t capture all I wanted to say, so let me try to explain it to a more mature brain.

A 15-day vacation to Bali, Indonesia

You know what they say, unless you have a destination, any way you go is the right way.

Ok, let me explain that a little bit more: imagine you wanna go for a vacation with your loved ones and you ask them where they wanna go and let’s say they say we want to go to Bali, Indonesia and stay there for 15 days during August this year (Bear with me here, it’s one of my dream trips, so I’m trying to build a mental picture of it!). At that time, the destination is clearly defined, you know exactly where you’re going, when and for how long you’ll be staying in that destination. The details about the means, the plane tickets, and all the travel arrangements can be figured out later. So, if you make that trip happen and you end up having some quality time with your loved ones, you can then proudly say that you succeeded that task, no? Of course, you have, because you had a clearly defined goal that you achieved and not only that, but you enjoyed achieving it and were happy that you did! So, if that’s not a success, I don’t know what it is, my friend! (Way to goo !)

Now imagine that when you asked them, they didn’t give you a specific answer, they said wherever you like sweetie, we just wanna get away from the house for a while and have some quiet time to relax! Ok, now that’s bad, you know why? Well, because it’s not specific, so you don’t have real indicators to measure the success of this task. It doesn’t say where, so you could go to Casablanca, to Paris, to Rome, to New York, or the small town nearby or just go to that motel a block away from your house, or that nice restaurant in the other part of the city (It is still not your house, no?). It doesn’t say when. You could go out of the house on a rainy day and end up staying in bed the whole time. And it doesn’t specify for how long either, you could think that all they wanted is to go for dinner outside in a nice restaurant (it’s away from the house and you can have some quiet time together, no?), or you could go for a weekend and come back to work on Monday or you can drive them to that quiet, yet boring village for a month.

So, all these scenarios are forms of what the destination was, right? I mean they all involve getting away from home and a quiet place to relax, but can you really say what is a success and what is not? I bet you can’t! However, I guess you’ll have an idea about the answer if you later discover that they actually wanted to go to Bali, Indonesia for a 15-day vacation during August. OMG! I’m so sorry, but I guess this was not a success!

Let’s pick a destination, shall we?

OK, I can almost hear you saying: ” But Khaoula, that’s because I didn’t know what they wanted, I don’t read minds! They should have told me what they wanted and we would have tried to make it happen”. I gotta say, you’re absolutely right!

But, do you know something? Most of the time it’s not what other people want that we find hard to determine, most of the time we can have a much harder time figuring out what WE really want. And that’s just about succeeding one task! I mean it’s just about a vacation destination or the restaurant we want to have lunch in.

Imagine how hard it is to succeed in LIFE! Well, it is hard mainly because a general success can be much harder to define, because it may have multiple destinations in very different levels of our journey, but it’s somehow getting closer to those destinations that can define your success. Notice I said “getting closer to”, not necessarily “arriving at”, because the ending point of this journey called life is death. And so, as long as we’re alive, we should keep revising and updating those destinations and keep trying to getting close to them as much as we can. It’s that closeness to your goal that we can call success in my opinion, and being aware of the destinations themselves is what I find is the manifestation of that concept of “progressive realization”.

To be continued

Until next time, stay blessed!


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