I teach a class called Strategies for Success. It is a college success class, but I tend to think success can’t be compartmentalized into subjects. There are some universal truths about success. I took the class on a journey of defining success yesterday. At first they gave me words like, “money, happiness, a house, admiration!” One student even said, “A dog!” Everyone laughed when I agreed (because of my little boy Henry.)
What was interesting was that when I asked them to come up with a definition in smaller groups, they excluded all of the discriptors they came up with and decided on rather vague answer like: “Its what you make of it, meeting your own goals, never giving up.” They decided that success was a personal definition for each person.
One of the big struggles that emerged was that as 18 year old college students, they were often towards meeting their own ideas of success and the requirements of outside forces, specifically: Family. We discussed the difference between success as measured by outside metrics and success as defined by self.
We discovered that some people are very successful according to the standards of society, but don’t feel very successful. Other people are happy with their own achievements, but don’t meet any extrordinairy standards externally. Which are you?
We even talked about the “destination” of success. I posed this as a question in which I was seeking advice. I said, “I’m successful by many standards, but feel like there is so much I want to do. How do I balance this struggle?” Several students had earnest pieces of advice for me: “Appreciate where you are now, but keep working for your goals”, said one. They basically told me I could feel successsful now and still work on it. The exception is the one student who said we only really know if we are successful once we are dead when we look back and decide.
How do you define success? According to external rules and labels or by internal metrics? Do you care what people think? (Of course you do!) But what is really more important? When is success determined? At the end of life, at the end of the day, after each decision, every moment?
My favorite answer came from a young lady in the back. “The only way you can fail is if you stop trying.” That is a great definition of success. What do you think?