Here we go with another episode of “what is success?” and the rhetoric of the discussion that follows such a question. But seriously, do we truly know what success means? Is it possible that the meaning of this word is different from person to person and place to place? Think about what success really means to you and how others effect that level of success or even the perception of that success. Think about how others may just have a different expectation of success, even of your own success. Where do we start? Lets just open a book, or with the means of this generation, lets look it up. If you go to Merriam-Webster, Success is defined as such: (I crossed out the vague pointless definitions)
: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame
: the correct or desired result of an attempt
: someone or something that is successful
: a person or thing that succeeds
Wikipedia provides this definition:
: Attainment of higher social status
: Achievement of a goal
: The opposite of failure
I am certain there more sources that we could add but lets just work with what we’ve got. According to these resources success is “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame” and attaining a “higher social status”. Lets just discuss this because this is the level of success that most people search for. Your success is based on how much money, respect, or fame you have or basically how society perceives you regarding your social status. (well we know some rich fella put in for that definition) Maybe this definition is part of the problem; in order to become successful I have to make my social circle think that I make enough money, get enough respect, or become famous. How is it that success is based on the judgements of those around you? This level of defining our success relies on us being one step above everyone else because in order for me to be considered successful I must make more money than you, get more respect than you, and become more famous than you. I have to say, this definition of success surely has led to many failures.
Lets move on to the definitions that we would have learned growing up as a small child from a teacher or parent. Success is the “achievement of a goal” or the “correct or desired result of an attempt”. Exactly! As children we should have been taught that success is defined as setting a goal and achieving it or that being successful is the act of attempting to do something and actually doing it. Success really should be that simple. There is no money, no need for respect, and no fame involved. It is just a personal desire to reach a certain goal and to make an attempt to reach that goal. This level of success does not rely on the judgement of society or others around us, it solely relies on our personal judgement. I am as successful as I feel I am not as you want me to be. Imagine walking down the street and seeing people smiling saying “I did it” rather than escaping in a stressful desire to figure out how to make more money, be more respected, and famous. These people you pass who are stressed out pass those negative feelings onto everyone they come in contact with even if it is only in passing. Likewise, if someone came up to you joyful because they feel that they have accomplished something no matter how small, you would likely feel a little warm fuzzy spot in your soul.
Lets just move on to the last definition which sounds damaging in a sense but may just be the most important. Success is the “opposite of failure”. We as a whole do not wish to fail more than we want to be successful. The fear of failure is why success is so important. We have learned that if we do not make enough money others see us as failures. If others do not respect us we are failures. If we cannot reach a level of fame we are failures. Sound harsh but think about the last time someone leaned over to you and pointed out a stranger and said “he’s rich”, which in doing so they already made that person famous in their mind and gave them a lot more respect just because they were “rich”. Better yet; someone points out a person an says “their famous”, again we now automatically respect this person and think they have money and success just because we think they are famous.
I am going to dare to say there are more failures than there are stories of success. Maybe the problem is our definitions and expectations in not just our lives but also the lives of others. Maybe we need to revise the definition of success and delete the words relating to failure. Maybe we should focus more on our own achievements and goals and the fact that we are attempting to get some kind of result by trying to reach those goals rather than judging others based on wealth, respect, fame, or the possibility of failing. Society would have many more success stories if we could focus on our own success rather than only writing the perceived success of others.
In your eyes I may have failed and that makes me feel like a failure, which leads me to believe that you have little respect for me because the lack of wealth has kept me from achieving fame. Stop telling me that I will only become successful and respected if I make enough money or become famous enough. I will leave this world knowing that there were some things I tried. There were some goals I reached and some I did not. Yet I will also leave knowing that to some I have never reached success and in their eyes I failed. I would much rather be judged by the little attempts to reach my personal goals rather than make you respect me because I became rich and famous. There are things in this world I would like to see and do, I don’t need to be rich and famous, I just want to see and do the things in life that bring me joy not stress and the fear of failing. Don’t judge me based on the numbers in my bank account; judge me on the steps forward I take.
At what point in life did society chose to stop telling little kids that success is the act of trying to reach something and making that attempt? At what point did society choose to change the perception that success can only be reached by money, respect, or fame? Maybe society has failed us, maybe we need to focus on where WE need to be and what WE want out of life. Maybe we need to try to focus on looking back and smiling at all the things we accomplished in life rather than trying to impress others and make more money. Go forth and set goals you can reach and make your own success and stop judging others.