There is no right or wrong answer in how we define success. The term itself is subjective. So what success means to you may differ from what it means to me.
Much of our more recent societal thinking and indoctrination has focused on a paradigm that is hinged on economic success or the wellbeing of its economy. The last four to five decades have turned people into consumers and made consumption and the acquisition of material possessions the new doctrine for society. We have equated success with monetary gain. The bigger the bank account, the more successful we are. Under the traditional banner of success, our society is broken down into winners and losers, the haves and the have nots.
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” – Henry David Thoreau
The New Success
“If you see yourself as already successful, then have you achieved success? Where is that success now?”
The message many business coaches and organisations preach focuses on success that has everything to do with attaining material or economic wealth. Most definitions are based on serving the individuals desires. There are some amazing strategies and techniques that can be learnt from motivational and business coaches, however in this time of transition the message of success needs to be redefined and changed.
The new model of success will encompass sustainability and promote lasting pathways that look beyond the short sighted profit maxim. A new model of success is not only needed it is essential for the survival of the human species. This new paradigm of success will include working for the greater good of all, the environment and future generations. The impacts of what we do individually, as communities and as nations will be crucial to making changes that are needed.
1. Success Is No Longer Economic Wealth
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” – John Muir
For many decades we have paid homage to financial success and overlooked the value of many important non-wealth producing aspects of society. The levels of happiness, our environment, our relationships, the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems are all examples of some of the wonderful non-economic resources that surely should be taken into account when measuring ‘success.’ The world’s natural resources are battling capitalism, trying to fend off this consumption crazed lunatic that has no real need for many of these resources in the first place.
2. Bringing Back Equality
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein
The recent study by British researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, aptly named the ‘Spirit Level, Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better,’ was designed to track income inequality against social indicators including health, education and crime. The study showed the greater the gap between rich and poor, the more likely teenagers will grow up in challenged environments of drug use and criminal activity. Forum chair Jonathan Boston, director of Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, said there was enough evidence to support the general thesis in ‘The Spirit Level.’ “My personal view is that we can have some confidence that more equal societies – other things being equal – have better social outcomes across a range of measures. It may not be absolutely conclusive, but I think it’s reasonably persuasive.” Wilkinson and Pickett outlined that huge social benefits which extend into the global community can be seen when there is a greater level of equality across society, reducing the gap between rich and poor.
3. Service To Society & Our Environment
“Serve the needs of others, and all your own needs will be fulfilled. Through selfless action, fulfilment is attained.” – Lao Tzu
Those who render a service for the betterment of the environment and humanity will be the new role models of success. Wealth will come in the form of job satisfaction, a sense of community, working towards the common good, personal and spiritual growth, empowerment and a positive work environment that fosters care and equality amongst peers. Organisational philosophies that provide intrinsic meaning to the individual and a quality of life that transcends mere economic fulfilment will be vital in the new economy. The obsession with growth and prosperity will give way to creativity that develops great thinkers and philosophers who explore new horizons and challenge our current thinking.The new success will view achievement as a win-win situation as opposed to win-lose. Business and interpersonal transactions will foster mutually beneficial outcomes. Seeing profitability as the only option will be a thing of the past.
4. Success Is What YOU Want It To Be
If we think getting out of bed is a success, then it is. If we think growing vegetables in the backyard is success, then it is. If we think helping build stronger communities is a success, then it is. Far too often we base success on what other people classify as success, what society and the media has led us to believe. Success is what we give meaning to. A sole parent may be raising three children and one of them is expelled from school. The parent may see themselves as a failure by not attending to the needs of the child. Success is merely a word used to give meaning to things we do that we associate satisfaction and fulfilment with. Success is simply a feeling that we derive from doing something that makes us feel good. As humans, many of us walk around with the feeling that we aren’t good enough, don’t have enough money, love and connection. How we define success is important in how happy we are. Do you need to change anything? To be truly successful we have to change our thoughts about what we want, ensuring we define success by the things that really matter. This is the secret of true success.
5. Giving As Opposed To Receiving
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” – Mother Teresa
Philanthropy, defined as ‘private initiatives for the common good,’ already plays its part in our society. Billions of dollars are received each year by charitable organisations all over the world. Individuals, households and corporations donate time, money and other resources to charitable trusts and organisations helping make a difference. The term Philanthropy has been around for around 2,500 years since the ancient Greeks first coined the act of charitable giving. The new success will be based on giving as opposed to taking. Much of Western philosophy of economics is based on ‘what we will get in return’ for services rendered. The new success will make giving central to everything we do.
6. Living Free
“Give up and you will succeed.” – Lao Tzu
Deepak Chopra talks about the law of detachment in his book ‘Seven Laws of Spiritual Success.’ He outlines “Only from detached involvement can one have joy and laughter, then the symbols of wealth are created spontaneously and effortlessly. Without detachment we are prisoners of helplessness, hopelessness, mundane needs, trivial concerns, quiet desperation and seriousness – the distinctive features of everyday mediocre existence and poverty consciousness.” Chopra outlines that if we pin our hopes, dreams and aspirations on certain outcomes, we will ultimately end up disappointed. We become attached and anchored to different things. This enslavement to ‘things’ means we are not free. Those of us who choose to make a living and seek only external gratification will always be slaves to life. Those who choose a ‘cause for life’ have mastered the art of what it means to be free. Living with passion, commitment and seeking to make a difference and helping others is one of the keys to being free.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton
Life enables us to express and experience various dimensions such as work, family, lifestyle, relationships, health, mental and spiritual fulfilment. If any one of these areas exerts too much influence over our lives or dominates our existence, we may experience conflict, anxiety or a crisis in one or more of these realms. Each area allows us to express a different aspect of ourselves. Responsibility, contribution, appreciation, caring, sharing, growth and underlying all of this is love. The focus from individual to oneness is essential in the development of a new definition of balance and success. It is time to reassess our commitment to the survival of the human race and our stewardship for the planet. The balance between environment, individual and economic needs to be re-engineered.
8. Compliment Who You Are & Live With Passion & Conviction
“Know thyself.” – Socrates
Often we get side tracked on our journey through life entering into vocations that we are not passionate about. By understanding that we are part of the whole and everything is connected, our fear of failure is eliminated and we can see more clearly the way forward. The late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, minister and author in his book the ‘Power of Positive Thinking’ outlines, “The man who assumes success tends already to have success. People who assume failure tend to already have failure.” Expecting the best means that you put your whole heart (i.e. the central essence of your personality) into what you want to accomplish. People are defeated in life not because of lack of ability, but for lack of wholeheartedness. There is absolutely no downside in moving toward something that we are passionate about, however many of us live in fear and fail to achieve our true potential. Deep down we all have this inner desire to do something good and help create a better world. Once we have decided on what we would like to contribute, then it is a matter of moving toward this with passion and conviction. We are entering an exciting period of the human experience, a period of great change, transition and collective evolution. As we sit on the precipice of this new phase we will move toward a new consciousness that is of connection, oneness and compassion.