“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” — Helen Keller
Last month, we began a discussion about success — not the nuts-and-bolts of how to achieve it, but in the importance of defining it on both a professional and personal level. Without knowing what success looks like for us, we’ll never know how close or far away we are from it.
In our last issue, we went over success as a goal versus success as a mindset, and finding success in helping others. This month, I’d like to take a look at a different way of defining success — our internal sense of the concept.
Making the Most of Our Abilities
We’ve all been given abilities and talents that separate us from others — but only if we work to put those abilities to their best use. Just because something comes naturally to us doesn’t mean we don’t need to hone our skill and become our best, most effective selves.
Bringing all you have every time you step into the arena is a hallmark of success. If you do this, any setback isn’t failure; it’s just a step on the road to eventual accomplishment. That feeling the outcome would have been different if we had just tried a little harder, got started a little sooner or did one extra action? That’s failure.
The Respect of Others
Too often, we worry about how others think of us. Are we driving the right car? Are we wearing the right clothes? Do we live in the right neighborhood? These are all surface considerations and, while important to us, aren’t true representations of the success that will matter most to us as we go through life.
Think of the people you respect most in your life, those whose opinions matter to you on a deep level — your spouse, your children, your best friend, etc. These are the people whose disappointment in you would be devastating if you didn’t live up to your fullest. Likewise, feeling their respect can buoy you up when life inevitably tries to pull you under. We all want to be well thought of; we just need to make sure we’re looking to the right people to put that value into.
In the end, our ultimate measure of success can be found in the face of the person staring back at us from the mirror. If we ask that person the right questions, they’ll always have an answer for us.
We’re responsible for our own actions. Our results may vary and depend on things outside of our control, but we are the ones who determine how much effort we bring, how we prepare ourselves for challenges, how we deal with adversity and how we behave when our integrity is put to the test. We know when we could be doing more and that we are the only ones in control of our actions. We all fall short from time to time, but it’s good to keep in mind that, while success isn’t a permanent state, neither is failure. It’s pushing onward when success seems far away that brings success ever closer.