What No One Tells You About ‘Success’

The question of success is an important one. Today, it is normal to value ourselves and others based on the scale of our achievements. When the education system is more focused on qualification than learning, and when society tells you that to succeed you have to ‘be the best’, it’s difficult not to compare ourselves to those around us. In this sense, we can get carried away with feelings that what we are doing is not enough, which, ironically, sets us back a pace.

So, what does success mean to you? When this question was put to students, they said that success means different things to different people – for some it means working hard and doing well in their degree, for others it means formulating good friendships, and for others still it simply means doing what you love.

So is success just a matter of perspective? Consider an Olympic athlete – at the top of his game in his own country and competing among the best sports men in the world. In itself this is no mean feat. But if this athlete comes last in his Olympic race, does that change his level of success? Well, it does and it doesn’t. If he aimed to finish in the top 3, he didn’t accomplish what he set out to do, and by the google definition, is not successful. But by other measures, he is an accomplished athlete, sponsored to work hard, train, and inspire others to work towards their own goals.

Different people have different ideas of success. You can’t measure it. It’s subjective. While the athlete may feel that he has let himself and others down by finishing the race last, he has in fact done very well in all the events leading up to where he is now. He is already accomplished in what he has achieved. What really matters, is not what other people think of his position, but how he feels about where he is now, and where he has come from.

It’s the same for all of us. When we spend our lives on social media, it’s easy to feel that we’re not doing as well as everyone else, and that we need to run faster to cross the finish line ahead of the rest. But we need to remember what we have achieved, even in the small successes. And we need to remember it’s not all about what we have achieved, but about who we are. Because if you can’t measure success by your achievements, then surely it’s better to measure success by how you feel about the person you have become. And that feeling needn’t be determined by the scale of your accomplishment. As long you are happy with who you are and act with the best intentions to develop yourself and those around you, you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

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