We all want to be successful in one way or another. But what does success mean to you and what are the implications? How do we know when we're successful, how do we measure it and on what basis do we define it?
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives the following definitions to 'Success'
1 outcome, result
2 a: degree or measure of succeeding b: favourable or desired outcome ; also : the attainment of wealth, favour or eminence
Answer 2b, 'favourable or desired outcome' seems to be the most apt as it covers a broad range of possibilities, although for many 'the attainment of wealth, favour or eminence' is the only measure of success we understand or aspire to in today's society.
But, as usual, it depends very much on how we've been brought up and the influences around us, our consumption of media, our peers, our beliefs about ourselves and therefore our unique perspective of the world.
It's an interesting point to consider, because our pursuit of material wealth, academic and professional achievement may not always make us happy.
Fame and Celebrity
It has been interesting watching the rise and fall of 'Britain's Got Talent' star, Susan Boyle over recent weeks. She certainly didn't have the image of what we generally define as 'successful' in our culture at present, but she made it onto TV, opened her mouth and there you had this gutsy, flirty lady with a great voice!
The media lauded her, her YouTube entry got hundreds of thousands of hits and her fame spread rapidly. People around the world know who she is and one person in a small village in the middle of nowhere, believed that Susan Boyle would soon be more famous than Obama!!
You could say that this in itself was a success! She's certainly achieved a level of fame and, even coming second out of all the people who auditioned is not a bad effort, by any standards. But now, we are hearing reports that she is unable to handle the media attention, her perceived 'failure' to win the competition and her celebrity. What a shame.
In appearing on 'Britain's Got Talent', she has already achieved fame probably beyond her wildest dreams and may even still have a good singing career ahead of her, providing she gets the help she needs. BUT apparently this 'success' has not made her happy for now at least.
In the same way, Jade Goody achieved fame after her appearance on 'Big Brother' and also notoriety for her views. Sadly, although she achieved a lot of wealth for her sons, her success did not bring her good health and allow her to enjoy the fruits of her success for long.
Recent research also concluded that 25% of people involved in a study worked on their laptops in bed for 2-6 hours a week. Do you think these people feel fulfilled, happy, healthy and successful? Well some may, but for most, it’s highly unlikely.
Be Careful What You Wish For
There's an old proverb that warns us 'Be careful what you wish for. It may come true'. They're wise words, because often how we define our success may not necessarily support our long term happiness, good health and enjoyment of life and there are often consequences to achievement of our ambitions that we had not anticipated. And, not everything can be measured in terms of wealth and status.
How successful are we, for example, when our fame means that we are often lied about in the press and have our reputation torn to shreds often for no good reason other than to sell papers; when we can't go to the shops without being photographed or mobbed; when we can't go out for an evening without someone commenting on what we're wearing or how much we weigh?
In the same way, when we look at our professions, we usually chose them because the career appealed to us in some way. For some of us that choice may bring us great wealth and acclaim. Yet, when we come to get into it, we find ourselves working more or less round the clock, neglecting our relationships with family, friends and partners and never finding time to look after our bodies and minds because we're always the last priority on our own list. Is that your definition of success?
An Alternative Definition
If it was suggested that perhaps rather than focusing on fame and material wealth, we measured our success by our good health, good fortune, contentment and enjoyment of life, would that make sense to you?
Perhaps instead of being led by others' ideas of success we made our own definition, based on how happy and successful our relationships are, how much we enjoy what we do for a living, how much we love what we do in our leisure time, how much time we can devote to ourselves and those we care about, would that make even more sense?
Stress Management Tips for Success
1. Choose what you want to do and achieve in life because it matters to you and makes you feel good, valued and valuable. Not because someone else, society or the media tells you that success is defined in a different way and it makes you look good to other people. It's what's inside that counts.
2. Take time to examine what's working in your life and where you might want to devote more time and then ACT upon what you discover.
3. Look after yourself. As the ad campaign goes 'Because you're worth it'! Pitching ourselves and comparing ourselves constantly with others rarely gives us the happiness and peace of mind we need for true success. There'll always be somebody who has more money, a bigger house, more expensive jewellery and so on. So take time to eat well, exercise and give yourself time to think things through based on your own values, beliefs and ideas and achieve what you reasonably can.
4. Remember that, whilst it's reasonable to have ambitions, you need to be able to focus on where you are now and to enjoy the ride. If we live constantly in the future - once I've got this house, this job, this car, this partner etc - we never have time to enjoy what we have now.
5. Be grateful every day for what you have NOW. Take time in the car, on the train, in bed, in the park or anywhere as often as possible to remember just how fortunate you are with what you have right now.
6. Celebrate and acknowledge even the smallest successes in your life. You're not showing off. You're just pleased and delighted and that's got to be worth celebrating!
7. If you need to make changes for your health, happiness and fulfilment, go for it! Seek help and support if you need it and enjoy the challenge!
Free Copy of The Wheel of Life
A free copy of a simple chart which helps you see clearly what aspects of your life are working for you now and which need a little more attention is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annie is a specialist in Stress Management, qualified in Stress Management, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, NLP & Reiki.
I spent over 20 years in the advertising industry, reaching Board level.
However in the last 3 years in my career, my boss sold the company without securing my future, changes occurred which I found challenging, I found myself having to prove myself all over again and frankly, by the end of it, I burned out. My relationship was at breaking point and so was my heart and I just didn't understand why. I spent a lot of time being very self-critical and generally negative, despite my belief that I had always been a positive person.
In the end, I was made redundant, my marriage failed and my Father died. This was honestly my darkest hour.
So thank goodness then, that, whilst searching for a hobby to keep me in some way sane, I found a Stress Management Diploma Course. The course took me 18 months to complete and the training has not stopped since! Within 6 months of starting it, I realised that THIS was what I wanted to do.
I wish I'd known what I've learned through my stress management training 20 years ago. Life would have been a lot simpler and far happier!
Subsequently, I've found a new partner who I feel lucky to be with, I divide my time between London, New York and the South of Spain, work in Stress Management, Wellbeing & Personal Development and consider myself to be the luckiest person on the planet bar none!
By teaching others what I know and working with people to overcome their own challenges using a variety of proven and effective techniques, I can help them reach the happy, healthy and fulfilled state that is everyone's right and there for the taking, if we're prepared to devote some time to looking after ourselves and to challenge a few of our beliefs and patterns.
My range of Stress-relieving CDs are available on Amazon, through New World Music and via my website www.breathingspacetherapies.com.
Annie is invited regularly to speak about her specialist subject at events. She has written articles for traditional and online publications consumer publications
Memberships include The Worshipful Company of Marketors,
Complementary Medical Association
International Stress Management Association