The True Meaning of Success


What is the true meaning of success? We all want to feel successful in life, yet how well do we understand this illusive 'success' that we seek? Is success something to be waited for or is it something we step into now? Is it a journey? A destination? Or perhaps neither, or both? Let's have a closer look at a clear-headed definition of success to live by...

The Need To Succeed

Wanting to be successful isn't the same as needing to be successful. Wanting something is the stuff dreams are made of. Needing something, on the other hand, introduces an element of desperation that dampens our relationship with whatever it is that is being pursued.

The pursuit of needs is basic to our survival. The pursuit of wants takes us to the next level - stepping out of surviving and into thriving. We are dependent on that which we need and are independent of that which we want.

Needs give us a foundation - a launching pad if you will. Wants give us the fuel for take off and getting wherever it is we want to go.

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Survive In Order To Thrive

It's fashionable to think of success as being driven by an overpowering need to succeed. Yet, if we could peer into the minds of those we regard as truly successful, what are we likely to find? Are these people driven by an overpowering need to succeed or are they led by a vision or dream that gives real meaning to their lives?

When need is running the show we are caught in the seriousness of a life-and-death struggle. Needs are serious business. Our very survival depends on them.

On the other hand, when want is at the helm we lighten up. We are elevated and invited to a whole new level. Our life takes on a wonderful and rare fragrance, the fragrance of play.

Needs weigh us down and keep us close to earth. They help us keep both feet on the ground. Wants free us. They liberate us to explore and soar the skies. We mustn't forget that the meaning of life is not just to survive. It is to survive in order to thrive.

The true meaning of success can be found in this. The mental habits of successful people enable free passage between these two realms - the realms of surviving and of thriving - drawing strength and support from them both.

What Is Success?

Who doesn't want to be (or feel) successful in life? Wanting to feel successful is as natural as wanting to be happy. Yet, what is this happiness or success we seek? Is it a journey? Or is it a destination? Where is it to be found?

Success As Destination

When success is a destination there is always the chance that we won't be able to make it. Life is unpredictable. Not one of us knows how long we will live. The destination, by which we have chosen to define our success, is waiting on the distant horizon. But what if our life simply doesn't take us that far?

Can the true meaning of success be at the mercy of a timetable that is largely out of our hands? Can the sheer length of a life be the deciding factor between 'a failure' and 'a success?'

Material And Status Success

Success as destination usually means achieving one or both of the below:

  • Material success (money and/or possessions).

  • Status success (achieving a coveted status that brings us the honor, respect and/or power we want or feel we deserve).

Both are powerful forms of success that bring a modicum of satisfaction, joy and happiness - at least temporarily. Yet, can true success be measured by these?

Possessions and status are ruled by external factors. A change in circumstance can easily lead to a change in fortune. Money and possessions are easily lost. Our 'success' goes with them. Status is conferred by others, and can just as easily be taken away.

Can the real meaning of success ever be threatened by others, or by the vagaries of time and circumstance? Is our situation really that brittle? Where can we find a success to truly depend on? Where do we find a true definition of success that puts the wheel back into our own hands?

Assuming Control

Success as destination, or result alone, is problematic. It puts us in a precarious position where in order to 'succeed' we depend on external factors beyond our control. With this kind of 'success'... 'failure' is always just around the corner.

There is another kind of success, however, that is independent of results. We don't have to wait for it, because it can be had now. It is immune to the dictates of time and circumstance because it is generated by every step we take. Even the finality of death only serves to immortalize it. 

There is a success of equal opportunity - available to one and all. Yet, we needn't look for it off in the distance. We need never worry about whether or not we will reach it, since it exists where we stand, right under our feet. It is a true meaning of success that puts the steering wheel squarely back into our own hands...

Orienting Towards Success

The true meaning of success is in the directions we take. If we don't feel we are headed in the right direction then the real meaning of success is easily lost.

A life of 'failure' becomes irrelevant if our current direction is solid. A life of 'success' is tainted if the direction we are headed just isn't right for us.

Even with all of the possessions, money, power or status in the world - if we aren't moving in the right direction we won't feel successful with our lives. And what is success if we can't feel it from the inside-out?

The very moment we start moving in the right direction, is the very moment we reclaim the powerful feeling that is success. Nothing to wait for. Nothing to depend on. Here and now we do what it takes. Here and now we are successful - or full of success.

Why So Hopeful?

There is much hope to be had in a direction that is completely within our power to take. One such direction is that of continual and incremental self-improvement. Instead of spending our time and energy judging things as they are; we aim at constant refinement. Instead of regarding our lives as a mere succession of events, we turn it into a work of art.

The canvas is ready and the brush is in hand. What are we going to paint - not ten years down the line - but now? What do we want to create - not twenty years down the line - but with the very next step we take?

Exactly because we have yet to arrive, that is why the journey is so inspiring and hopeful. So why do we waste so much time worrying about whether or not we will ever arrive? Why the self-reproach of not having arrived quite yet?

Whatever our destination we have set our course. On the path to self-improvement we can make progress every step of the way. Instead of aiming for one big and final success, we generate and enjoy many little successes along the way. Instead of having to wait, we start to create.

The Wonder of the Journey

The journey challenges us. It calls us to muster our determination, to be diligent in our efforts and to persevere. Pain, joy, disappointment, triumph, setback and advance - all paint the landscapes and vistas we encounter along the way.  

We may have yet to achieve our dream or goal. Our port of destination may still be out in the distance. Yet, looking down at our feet we may see that we are already living our dream. With every step we take there is an excitement, a vitality and wonder. Perhaps even awe.

One day we might even reach our port of calling - only to find that the best part of our journey may already be behind us. The true meaning of success is revealed. Being on the way, headed in the right direction - it just doesn't get any better than this! We have already arrived. What a joy. What a relief.

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