How Do We Define Success?

We have many hopes for our children as they grow to be adults.  Some involve: to be healthy, happy, valued, and loved.

What about successful?

Isn’t every generation’s desire to have its children be more successful than the last?

For many Americans, that typically means having more opportunities in career, making more money, having bigger homes, and going on more trips.   The mantra of the 1980’s is ‘whoever dies with the most toys wins.’

I think we, as a community, are fairly far away from those definitions. But to be clear, let’s define success – explicitly.  I think Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘ A Key to A Successful Life’ epitomizes it perfectly:

“To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics

and endure the betrayal of false friends:

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better,

whether by a healthy child,

a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier

because you have lived;

This is to have to succeeded.”

So, clearly, we’re not talking about having the most money or possessions or biggest job title.  We’re talking about the satisfaction of a good life that has impact in positive ways; a life that matters to those around us and to the world as a whole.

What characteristics are underlying the lines within this poem?

Having a sense of humor, perhaps with the ability to laugh at oneself, is clearly defined in the first line.

What are others?

I can derive being intelligent and articulate, loving and kind, strong and just, appreciating beauty and expressing gratitude.

I can see being accomplished, passionate, creative, and inspiring.

Wow, these are pretty awesome.

Imagine if everyone on the planet had all of these characteristics.

We would truly be living heaven on earth.

Now that would be a HUGE success.