How Do You Define Success?

“A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions–as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.”  Nietzsche

Success.  For the longest time I defined it by some outward achievement.  I was sold on the idea that an abundance of material goods and the money to pay for all of it would forever hold my place as a “success”.  Some ideas die hard, brutal, gut-wrenching deaths.  Some ideas do not want to die, but die they must if we are to become something else.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu

Ideas have a terrible tendency to become equated with identity.  Much harm is done to those harboring the notion that they are this or that.  Whatever this or that may be, remember that it’s only temporary.  You are no more the idea you hold in front of you today than you were the idea you held of yourself during your adolescence.  Identities change and the quicker we learn to shed these uncomfortable, confining pseudo-identities the quicker we can become something else.  Who do you want to become?  What will you have to let go so that you might be?

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.  Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.  This is a kind of death.”  Anais Nin

Becoming takes us far from the safety of the harbor.  It is easier to just let our “identity” call the shots.  The identity we embrace decides what we eat during the day, what we wear, read, watch, think etc. etc.  Identity determines how we define success.  How sad it would be if we were prisoners of our own manufactured identities.   Would you not be pissed if shortly after birth you were handed an identity and told that it was forever yours and could never be exchanged?  That no matter what lessons you learned from the joy and tragedy of living, your fate was sealed amongst the stars long before you ever came to be. Sad indeed.  Yet how many live lives in carefully crafted identities that rarely yield to the possibility of something else, something more?  

“For self is a sea boundless and measureless.” Kahlil Gibran 

Yes!  That’s it!  “something more.”  more worthy of the actual concept behind the word: something of greater importance.  For so long I lusted after more and defined my success by how much more I could attain from the material realm and it took utter financial ruin to realize my past definition of success was shallow and could not nourish my soul in the way it desired.  With age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes a reworking of things once thought known only to realize there is still so much left to discover.  Success really has nothing to do with material things.   The material requirements to live life well are modest and accessible to many of us living in developed economies with little effort, if that effort is applied wisely.  Once material needs are met we are ready to truly define what a successful life entails.  It is then we meet with exuberance the importance of living…

How do you define success?

10 thoughts on “How Do You Define Success?

  1. LOVE this, SI! As hubby and I head towards 50, we have absolutely changed what we define as success. Success, for us, is no longer “stuff”, but contentment, happiness and love. SO glad we’ve left the rat race for true peace of mind.

    • Thank you frugal farmer!

      The comment you and Wade left leads me to believe that something happens to people between 40-50. For some the life previously lead needs to be accounted for. Others make the transition just fine and continue doing what they have done enjoying the fruits of their labor. I would be lying if on some lonely nights, exhausted with never ending questions, that I did not envy those lives, but I know that we all have a different role to pay in the creation of our most authentic selves.

      Kudos to you guys for leaving the rate race and enjoying what you cherish most. 🙂

  2. Well said. These concepts smacked me like a lightning bolt when I turned 42. At 40 ideas were churning, but I couldn’t put it all together. It takes some time and a lot of reading and thinking to allow the light bulb to come on.

    • Wade,

      It’s interesting you mention age being a factor. I’m less than a year from forty and I know that the last three years have seen a tremendous transformation in my financial life and that has allowed to me time to think and reflect even more than I already do. I feel fortunate that I was able to enjoy and take advantage of the financial success I experienced overseas, but I knew that more money and more things weren’t the answer. Actually, I didn’t know, I discovered it and that discovery changed everything. It took making that 100k plus salary and traveling around the world a bit to realize those were not what I was truly after. I was merely chasing an idea that had been planted in my youth and when it finally brought forth fruit I realized my appetite had changed. I believe that working on myself over the last few years has been worth the effort as it has allowed me to rework the soil of my mind from which ideas are brought forth. I’m looking forward to the new decade that lies ahead.

    • DivHut,

      Totally agree. Each person will have a different definition of what success looks like and what it means to them, while trying to make it as authentic as possible. Also accepting that it’s possible that a concept of success has lost its luster and a new one is needed to reflect the persons current values more clearly. That is what I hope readers take from this post.

      Have a wonderful weekend!

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