When you think of success, what comes to mind? Money? A mansion? Any material possessions you want? Ability to travel? Enough money to buy time to do whatever you want? Who comes to mind when you think of success? Donald Trump? Bill Gates? A president? A CEO? What about success that looks like a mother? A father? A student who graduates and says no to drugs? Charities? Soldiers? A person giving out of their own needs to help others? Mother Teresa? Martin Luther King Jr? Harriet Tubman? Have these people achieved success in life?
Success seems to be such a nebulous term. Everywhere you turn people are chasing after success, but have they really defined what they are actually seeking? Everyone wants success, but not everyone has really thought about what success looks like or what it means to them. This is a vital step if you are ever to achieve success. It’s awfully hard to find something if you don’t know what it looks like. When you thought of successful people, what kinds of things did they have in common? Based on your impression of successful people, you might have insight into your own beliefs about what it means to be successful and what that looks like. After all, who you admire says a lot about you. Don’t forget, that Adolf Hitler was a very successful leader. Of course what he chose to do with his success is highly frowned upon by the world today, but if you don’t define success clearly in your own life, it can be easily misinterpreted or misguided. How will you know once you’ve reached success if you haven’t set the parameters for identifying success?
I’ve had to think a lot on this myself. I, of course, am one of those also searching for success. I promote successful living on this site, in my blog and in lots of other ways. So, it seems naturally important that I at least have an idea of what I am promoting! I believe success to come in many forms with many levels. Upon deep contemplation and also praying for God to reveal to me what His view of success is, a few things came to mind that I think establish a basic understanding of success in general. When I think of successful people, everyone from Martin Luther King Jr to Bill Gates to Adolf Hitler, there is a commonality I can think of, regardless of whether the way each person used their success was interpreted as good or evil. All of those successful people were effective with the strengths and skills they possessed. They provided value to other people. Not everyone agreed with the value they offered, but it was still very effective and created change and influence. I have concluded personally, that success has to do with how effectively you are using the individual gifts, strengths, talents and skills you have to offer value to other people.
When I think of wealthy people, or those with a lot of money and stuff, I don’t automatically consider them successful. The means by which they obtained their wealth might have something to do with their success in using their personal abilities, and their wealth might be an indication of their personal success, but I know that money itself does not define success. If a person is always looking for the next top of the line item to buy or the best place to live or the nicest car or personal comforts, they may not be taking the time to appreciate what they already have. Every time their appetite for something newer or nicer gets satisfied, that appetite grows larger and is always looking for something else, because what used to be the target of their desires is no longer sufficient to fill their desires. Therefore, if money or materialistic desires are your goal when you say, “I want to be successful,” then you are only fooling yourself. There are a lot of very rich people who do not enjoy their lives and live in a constant state of unrest and dissatisfaction. On the other hand, there are a lot of poor people and people everywhere in between who live very happily and contented, because they have learned that the definition of success does not have to do with money. Money is often a side effect, or a lie that can control you if you idolize it.
After long thought, I have concluded that success is the measure by which you effectively cultivate eternal value. What do I mean by eternal value? I mean any desirable trait, situation or state of being that cannot be worn out, degraded, destroyed, or otherwise damaged or eaten away by any physical means. For example, relationships, good will, personal development, encouragement, peace keeping, teaching, sharing, learning, creating, imagination, innovation, etc. The use and growth of such personal traits and characteristics that help one another and grow us as individuals. By this definition of success, it is easy to see how one with less money could very well be far more successful in life than one with much money. That is not to say money is bad, or that people with a lot of money are not successful in the areas of life that matter. Not at all. Success with providing value and living well does not have to do with whether or not you have money, which means both the rich and the poor have equal opportunity to be successful in life. It all depends on how they use what they already have available to them, both internally AND externally.
However, on the money side of things, keep in mind that money is a tool. It should not be the goal. It is a necessity we need in order to be able to continue living well, no matter what stage of life we are in. If we desire to be successful by offering value to others and helping to develop the things that last forever which are often intangible, then our desire for money should match what we need to best use our abilities to help others. It is reasonable to want enough money to cover the bills, provide for your needs and those in your family, provide a little extra for enjoyment and hobbies, and then of course enough to best provide value to others. We need to be careful though, in our money driven society, not to let greed or the having of money itself start to drive our motivations. It is hard to resist this sometimes, it almost feels natural to let the money or lack of money start to control us and our happiness. However, that will lead to unhappiness. Let’s not become a Scrooge with our resources. As you provide value to other people, it is natural that people will pay you for the value you provide. That is what usually turns into a career. As you focus on increasing value, the money will likely increase as well, but remember, it is a tool to help you, not the end goal.
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