Real Success is Becoming the Person You are Meant to Be
Aristotle, one of the pioneers of western philosophy who lived in the 4th century BC, said: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence”, and “All men seek one goal: success or happiness”.
In fact, there seems to be a void within the human soul that presses us toward this goal. Everybody wants to be successful and happy, but only few ever achieve success. Why?
The reason of this sad reality, simply said, is a wrong definition of success that leads to embrace wrong approaches to life. The truth of the matter is that success, as defined by the world, may bring you some kind of happiness, but not necessarily the type that can fill the void mentioned above.
Different Levels of Happiness
According to Martin Seligman, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the founders of Positive Psychology, there are three levels of happiness:
- Pleasure: The delight caused by the satisfaction of your physiological needs and your other deficiency needs such as your needs for safety, security and for belongingness. The accumulation of possessions, material wealth, and everything that contribute to a pleasant life procure this kind of happiness;
- Engagement: The feeling that you experience when you are lost in the moment, completely engaged in whatever you are doing. You experience engagement whenever you feel a sense of gratification for being of service. This type of happiness comes also with a certain sense of self-esteem and significance;
- Meaning: A feeling of fulfillment produced by being engaged in a cause greater than oneself. This type of happiness derives from striving to be and do what you are meant to be and do in life. It characterizes the state of mind of he whose “soul sings for having awakened to the totality of his calling”. In , Brian Tracy, referring to this level of happiness, wrote “The happiest of all people are those who feel that they are doing something worthwhile and important with their lives.” No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
These three levels of happiness correspond to the satisfaction of needs that are felt at the three different constitutive parts of our human nature. I would not like to engage into the debate on whether man is tri or bi-partite being. After all, everybody seems to agree that human beings have basically two dimensions in their constitution; one immaterial and another material.
We are made of a spirit and a body, and the bible reports that the union of these two components produced a functional entity called “soul,” the organ of consciousness which comprises the intellect, the volition, and the “heart” (seat of our feelings and emotions).
Recognizing Your Need for Fulfillment
All human needs can therefore be categorized in three groups: physical, psychological and spiritual needs. The satisfaction of our physical needs produces pleasure whereas the satisfaction of our psychological and spiritual needs produce engagement and meaning. What satisfy one category of needs cannot help meet the needs of the other categories.
The void referred to in paragraph 2 is the expression of our need for fulfillment; it is a spiritual need to become all that we are capable of being. Abraham Maslow called it "need of self-actualization". Our mistake is to try to quench a thirst which is spiritual in essence by material means, and as a consequence of this wrong approach we seem to be interminably empty and, in some cases, depressed and exposed to the risk of committing suicide.
Real success in life is not something to be achieved, be it wealth, fame, or power. The object of life, according to T.D. Jakes, author of Maximize the Moment: God's Action Plan for Your Life, is to get “there” before the bell rings, and its challenge is to wake up to the totality of your calling. In another words, real success in life is becoming the person you are meant to be, which implies knowing your purpose. Being precedes doing, and doing precedes having; material things and recognition come as rewards or bonuses.
It is when you engage yourself in fulfilling your life’s purpose - a lifelong process - that you become successful. You then experience the higher level of happiness that makes you feel content even in times of lack, anonymity, and hardship.