What is Success in Life?
What is success? Is it merely the opposite of failure? Is it winning? Or is being able to rise above winning and losing?
Merriam-Webster defines success as a “… favorable or desired outcome; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.” In other words, achievement of success could be defined as achieving one’s goals or as becoming wealthy, popular or famous. Albert Einstein advises us to “try not to become a man of success but a man of value.”
But listen, Al, if my goal is to become a man of value and I achieve it, am I not a success?
Like beauty, success is in the eye of the beholder. We tend to follow Merriam-Webster’s ‘also’ definition when we measure the success of others: wealth, popularity and/or fame. But how does one determine if one is a success from their own point of view? Since success is the achievement of a favorable or desired outcome, it could be said that if one has what they desire, one is a success.
Desire, therefore, determines success. If you desire it and then you get it, that is a success. If you continue to desire it and continue to have it, that is a continued success. If you continue to have what you desired but no longer desire it, or worse, want desperately to get away from it, you may not continue to think of yourself as ‘a success.’
What emotion do we experience when we get what we want? Many emotions spring to mind – triumph, pride, relief – but they all distill into the same basic, delicious elixir of happiness. That’s right, success makes us happy. “Look at me! I won!” “Look what I got!” “I made it!” Yup. Happy.
Yet often disappointment follows achievement of success. We often find that when we achieve a goal, acquire a thing or gain an experience it is not what we had imagined it would be. Achievement of a goal can cause unforeseen problems. A thing can turn out to be poorly made or otherwise less delightful than expected and the joy that we thought an experience might bring us may, in reality, bring us unanticipated pain. Therefore success and failure can be two sides of the same coin.
Success brings happiness and failure brings unhappiness. Lasting success equals lasting happiness. In other words, success is happiness. Achievement, acquiring and experience are only means. When you see someone who is happy, that person is successful no matter what their circumstances might be. The person who lives in squalor but enjoys every hour is successful. The person who lives with every luxury at their fingertips but spends every hour in fear, anger or sadness is not successful.
Of course there are degrees of success. Everyone is different, with differing capacities for happiness. There is also relative success, based on the wisdom that, "It could always be worse," which implies a sense of gratitude for what is. Gratitude creates acceptance and peace in the self. Acceptance and peace are sources of inner happiness.
To enjoy lasting success, desire happiness. Happiness comes easily, because 'happy' is the natural state of a human being. Since happiness in life is success in life, success in life is easy.