There are people in my life that probably believe I am not very successful because I don’t own significant properties or fancy, material things. This really isn’t something one has to wrestle with. It comes down to answering one, very important question: what truly makes you happy? If you find yourself immersed or surrounded by the things that make you happy, then by my estimation, that is the definition of success.
The Google dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” It’s a simple point of view, really. We all might ascertain simply getting out of bed in the morning as a small success. Finishing that project the boss has been nagging you about and pleasing everyone involved could be chalked up as a slightly larger chunk of success. Our days are full of them if we start to check off all the things we manage to do in a day. But small successes are one thing, “life successes” are something entirely different.
When my mother was alive, she constantly reminded me of the things I lacked. Until I could achieve or acquire things I lacked, she would proceed to point out the next level of things I lacked. It might have made me a little self-conscious, but it always kept me striving to achieve more — to acquire more — more and more and more. Then, my mother left this earth. What I would eventually learn through conversations with family members is my mother was extremely proud of me and my accomplishments. She just wouldn’t say those things in my presence. Perhaps she thought it motivated me. I’d rather not speculate.
Since my mother’s departure from this world, I have maintained my momentum in reaching new goals. I suppose at the end of the day, she did a great job as a mother: she made sure I could go far beyond her expectations (and far beyond my own). However, it wasn’t the monetary gains or material possessions that made my mother proud. It was the fact I was happy doing the things I was doing. She could see I was enjoying my work, my projects, and ultimately the many friends and positive connections I made along the way. I would later come to the realization that what made my mother proud of me was that I was living the life I wanted to live. I was free to do what brought me joy. I recall her words at some point, “as long as you can support yourself and be in a place where you are around good people, that is the real meaning of success.”
I am not rich. But I am unsure if being rich is solely a matter of the number of zeros at the end of your bank account balance. I have had the misfortune of knowing rich people who are hopelessly miserable. I know some very wealthy people that simply sulk on the sidelines, watching others pursue their dreams, their goals, and making unique things happen in their lives that affect many others in a positive way. They watch with envy. They talk smack, look down upon others and bury their insignificance under piles of money. Sure, they have the houses, the boats, the fancy cars, but their soul is empty. Their hearts are black with bitterness and rage. Or they simply have no idea what they really want to do with their lives. They’re lost.
So, one must ask themselves: “Am I lost? Do I know what I want in this life? Do I spend time with people I love? Are the things I am doing being enjoyed by others? Am I contributing something good to the world at large? Or not. But am I happy doing what I am doing?”
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are finding success in your life. I’ve learned success doesn’t define me — I define success. There is so much to marvel at in this world. Things we do while we’re in it; while we’re alive and making our small efforts meaningful every single day. Of course, we want to be financially set to do all the things we desire, but sometimes money itself isn’t what makes people happy in the end. Perhaps things money affords us (i.e., opportunities, freedom to pursue creative endeavors, etc.) can be misunderstood as providing happiness, but this is an illusion. Money only gives you the capital needed to obtain the things that make you happy. However, these “things” need to be defined before having the money to obtain them. And there are still things money can never obtain for you (i.e., time, health, love, etc.).
Life success is a state of mind, and at the root of this is your personal happiness. That’s why working class people can be some of the happiest people in the world, while rich folks can sometimes not be. This is a generalization, of course, and certainly not something that follows a scientific formula. However, when one possesses less, they tend to appreciate more.