What is Success?

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Dictionary.com defines success as the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals. The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like. I believe success is measured by two components; one subjective and one objective; one’s world view and one’s place in life. One’s world view plays an important part in determining one’s view of success. One view of success is definitely measured in attainment of wealth, position, etc. Another view of success is determined by how one lives their life and if they live life according to a set of morays that are defined by one’s belief system. One view of success can be material and one can be more altruistic.  Success is also measured differently depending on one’s place in life. I know that my view of it has changed dramatically. I have many friends who are very satisfied with their work as scientists who don’t seek the material  but rather the satisfaction of helping the world. I also have friends that are so focused on the material, they loose sight of things like friends, family and serving others.

I know when I first began my career, I measured success by how much money I made, where I lived, what kind of car I drove, and many other material things. Now that I am older and my life circumstances have changed, I measure success very differently. I am a Christian and I am not ashamed of that and it definitely affects my outlook and worldview. I think God gives us relationships, circumstances, and gifts to manage. Do we lead with integrity? Are we good stewards with what He has given us (Matthew 25:14–18 (NLT): “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.” Are we seeking to live a life of righteousness? God evaluates success by obedience and faithfulness to do what He’s called us to do, not by results.

Do you really want to live a life in pursuit of things? Whether you are religious or not, shouldn’t there be more to life than the material? Life has so much more to offer than that. I believe true fulfillment comes from serving others. Serving others is not only a noble pursuit, it is one that brings great satisfaction. I serve on two boards of youth organizations and I do service work at my church. I get a great amount of fullfillment by doing this. Now, I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that I missed my old income, my career, but I know all of that is temporary and being a servant to others is eternal. Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe our eternal destination is based on works but I believe what we do in this life lasts longer than we do.

I have been having this discussion with a good friend of mine. He owns his own business and he Is struggling to determine whether or not he is successful or not. Another friend of ours made a very valid point that we are given two commandments; to love God and to love others.  My friend who I have been having this conversation with is soul-searching for meaning and a way to define and measure his success both professionally and personally. He has been through a lot over the last year and a half and based on his many major life changes, it is understandable that he is searching for answers. At some point, I believe everyone goes through this. Circumstances change and redefining one’s purpose is a necessary part of life.

If success is partly measured by how we love others, we, as a society are failing miserably. Now I am not suggesting that no one is doing this well but we have seen so many failings and injustices in society today it makes me question how many people really understand this calling. The political angst, the racism, friends going after friends on social media are just a few examples that show we are not loving each other. This post is not about these topics but I will address them in another post. I just use them as examples to make a point.

When I lost my career due to disability, I struggled for a couple of years searching for a sense of fulfillment and success. I didn’t realize at the time that I needed to redefine my outlook on what success is and adjust my worldview to my current circumstances. For two years, I really struggled personally that my life had no purpose anymore because all that I knew was my professional life and I didn’t know that I needed to seek a new purpose; one that fit into my new life. I can no longer do the things I used to do so I had to find a new normal. The answers were right in front of me but I was too blinded by my old views that I failed to see what I was called to do in my new circumstances. I don’t have all the answers and there are days when I still struggle to find meaning but when I really contemplate the matter, I realize that serving others is what I am called to do and that gives me a sense of fulfillment and success that I never had before.

If you are like me and are having to adjust to a new normal because you are disabled, you are not alone. You have to redefine what success is and search for a new purpose in life. To stay healthy mentally, you really need to make it a priority to find an outlet to serve.

Be well and serve others.