What is this “success” thing we all spend countless hours thinking and talking about and preparing for? Will we recognize it when it gets here?
The dictionary tells us that success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, or the attainment of wealth, honors or power”. This infers that success is a destination, place or thing with a beginning and an end. I would argue that our desire for success is the driving force within each of us that propels us forward throughout our lifetimes.
We all want to believe that our lives have purpose and what we do is recognized and valued. It’s only when we stop trying, stop moving forward in our quest to attain success and personal fulfillment that we fail. As Richard St. John reminded us in his 2009 Ted Talk, “Success is a continuous journey, a journey that begins with our first step”.
The popular belief that “people are as successful as they choose to be” is highly misleading.
Much more goes into our ability to achieve success than just our choices. You may have had a different experience, but I’ve never met a person that made a conscience choice to fail. Ask 100 people if they want to be successful and you’ll get 100 “Yes” responses. It is only when we ask the follow up question, “What does success look like?” that things start to get murky.
Borrowing from Jean Paul Sartre, the French philosopher and author, it’s a case of ‘being’ and ‘nothingness’. Sartre was highly skeptical of mankind’s ability to achieve personal fulfillment. He argued that “human existence is a conundrum whereby each of us exists, for as long as we live, in a condition of nothingness that ultimately allows for free consciousness”. In doing so, however, we are also simultaneously constrained to make continuous, conscious choices.
Deep stuff, I know, but these continuous, conscious choices are what ultimately help to define us and our level of success and fulfillment. It is this dichotomy that also causes problems, because choice represents a limit on freedom within an otherwise endless range of options. We seek to remedy this conflict through our actions designed to lead us toward a meaningful ending. But for all intents and purposes, there is no ending — the journey just continues onward.
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
Think about it for a moment. In this context you can argue that people truly are as successful as they choose to be. After all, it was our choices or our decision to allow others to choose for us, in lieu of all other options that brought us to this outcome, right? However, life is just not that simple. You see, it is not just choices we make that ultimately define the quality of our lives and level of success. In reality, our lives are the embodiment of our collective decisions, experiences and circumstances.
So, how do we find this elusive thing we call success? You discover it by living each and every day to the fullest and being the BEST YOU. Whether you’re settling into a normal daily routine, or embarking on a brand new adventure in 2022, recognize that ‘your life-long journey is your success story’.
Enjoy the journey!
COPYRIGHT © 2016-22 John Carroll