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What Does Success Mean to You?
My Idea of Success
First, I'll describe some usual types of success I've seen in America, then some types of success I wish would go away, followed by my own ideas for success.
In America, success is often seen as winning some type of competition in a sporting event, a contest, a line of work - achieving the top of the ladder in a particular field of employment, winning the Lottery, retiring from work with enough money to travel the world, etc.
Unfortunately, in a society seemingly rife with violence, verbal and physical abuse, and other mental health issues, success for some individuals also means hurting someone else. The perpetrator sees this harm as "winning" in some sort of game or battle that is sometimes waged only in his or her own head.
Some Examples Of Unhealthy Success
One-Upsmanship - constantly outdoing ("one upping") someone else at school, at work, at home, anywhere. This used to be called "Keeping up with the Joneses" and meant having as nice as or better than, the neighbor's lawn, trees, dishes, aluminum siding, etc. A little of this can be fun, but now it's become much more vindictive and can lead to people shooting one another in order to take their Starter jackets and Nike shoes.
Unhealthy Competition: Stop-Light Chicken - making sure you rev your engine and streak out ahead of everyone else at a traffic light when it turns green. Some drivers simply run you off the road. In grocery stores, this takes the form of people smashing into you with their loaded grocery carts in order to get ahead of you in the checkout line.
Discrimination - since discrimination stems from fear and lack of knowledge, it makes the perpetrator feel safe and "better" that the target group of the discrimination. It is success to the person exercising it, but it is truly unhealthy. This includes name calling toward, and laughing at, minority groups, or anyone that is "different."
Food Games - using credit cards to purchase and flaunt expensive foods to your roommates in order to make them feel poor. It doesn't matter if you have to declare bankruptcy - you made them feel bad and that's a win.
Control - provoking someone else into a reaction of some kind in order to prove you have power over them.
Bullying - bullies feel success and power when they harm others in this way. Bullying needs to be stopped at all levels, from pre-school to retirement home. The website Bully B'Ware is Canada is excellent for its work toward this elimination of bullyism.
Manipulation - saving all of your own money, telling friends you have no money, and then soliciting and accepting their donations to "pay the rent." On the other hand, manipulation could be pretending you don't know how to do something in order to get someone else to do it.
Isolation - controlling a significant other in such a way that he or she is not permitted to see family, friends, or even the mailman.
Children - among some urban areas, racing your friends to see how many children you can have, whether you support them or not.
"I can change him (her)" - this is staying with an abusive or addictive partner in the belief that your relationship or your love will change that person for the better. Staying no matter what can be an erosion of your mind and spirit.
Games of Intimacy - this could be having a certain number of partners, teasing a certain target number of people without engaging with any of them (as a frat game), or something similar. I knew a woman that joined several dating clubs where the fees were pretty high, just so that she could turn down dates with men - she even kept track of them in a log book. She thought that was a success, until one man turned her down for a date! She was crushed and became very depressed.
"The American Dream" - a business of one's own or a good job, a house, two cars and a family. This is great if some good planning is put forth first. While the Dream may be applicable in the 21st century, many more people are single and others do not want a house, but the upside is that we can create our own dreams. The thing to avoid is mortgage debt and credit card/other debt that is so high that it will destroy the Dream.
FaceBook and MySpace - the race to see how many "friends" you can gather. For many, these are not real friends.
There are many other examples of things that some people consider successes that are really twisted and bizarre events. I hope you don't experience many of them.
Ideas About Success
I felt most successful when I was able to help two of my martial arts students discard their wheelchairs permanently.
Another time I felt success was in helping a young student avoid what would today be $100,000+ worth of leg surgery with martial arts instruction and additional stretching.
Another of my students experienced a complete reversal of rheumatoid arthritis. Rather than dying in two years, she avoided a wheelchair and death and has led a productive and happy life since that time.
Another overcame his chronic injuries in Viet Nam and in construction work to complete his first black belt in Judo after several years. He never gave up. He volunteers his time in a domestic violence sanctuary to teach women and children self defense.
Several others of my students in martial arts, GED classes, and college prep courses increased school grades from F's to A's and B's and went on to graduate from college. These are nurses, teachers, doctors, real estate owners, artists, architects, and solders in the war with Iraq. Two of these students married and worked on a Navajo reservation, providing much-needed healthcare to the Native Americans there.
For me, success is seeing people overturn negative prognoses they have received in life. and not only in healthcare. It is also seeing people overcome the negative talk they may receive from those around them that want them to fail in order to feel better about themselves.
Success is helping people avoid listening to lies that will keep them discouraged and underachieving, and doing this helps America to retain its quality of being a land of opportunity.
Ultimate success would be to see the end of all forms of abuse, an end to waste and an increase of good stewardship around the world; and for me, to live an often-examined life, continue to learn new information, meet new friends and enrich current relationships, and contribute to a better quality of life for us all.
© 2007 Patty Inglish