What is success? In the dictionary success is taken to mean, ‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose’. Succeed on the other hand has two meanings, but for the purpose of this session, we shall focus on the first one, which is, ‘achieve the desired aim or result’. Success in the society, more often than not, is measured by education and wealth.
We are trained or taught to get an education then we can secure a chance at advancing, career wise. We give so many years to education hoping to succeed so that we can get a job. The symbol of success in education is the certificate or good grades that show that you succeeded in completing a particular course or study.
There are so many parties that participate in this investment called education. In the society that I was brought up in, the whole village could have invested in ones’ education, including the learners themselves. The learner in this case could be coming from a humble background, so that the extended family, the church and other well-wishers all come together to raise the tuition fees and pocket money for the learner. The investment could run from primary up to the tertiary level, in campus.
This is such a good gesture made by the community, now the only challenge is to the learner who must prove that the investment was not in vain. They must make the community proud of their efforts by succeeding in all the levels of education that they have been sponsored for. They naturally become the project of the community.
When they complete their education and earn a graduate certificate, they are expected to find a job that will enable them to give back to those who invested in their education. This will be the measure of success. In this society it is quite simple, if you finish your education but cannot support or help your investor, who mostly happen to be your parents, then you have failed. Those who have good jobs, and property are said to have succeeded in life. Sometimes it is said that they have made a name for themselves.
It is therefore not common for people to study for so long in campus, and then come to practice something totally different from what they studied for. If this hardly expected occurrence happens, then to some level, it will still be viewed as a failure. Most parents always want to compare their kids. They mostly tell their kids to ‘succeed’ so that they(parents) are not ashamed to walk and talk with other parents in the society.
Evidently the measure of success has been left to those who support you, especially financially. You, the individual, do not have much say about this. Should it not be the other way though? You are the only one who knows what you love. The measure of success cannot be standardized for all of us. It is often shouted that, ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’, yet people will look down upon you if you hold a different view or opinion of success.
The goals that we are to achieve are chosen for us by those who finance our education. They might not say it out openly, but they have expectations of us. Maybe not all of them but, most of them. Clearly the meaning of success has been twisted and it has been used to mean different things. It is not so much for the individual after all. We have majorly monetized success.
What is it that you, personally desire? At what point would you think that you have succeeded in your desire? I say just identifying your desire is the beginning of success. If you continue to follow your heart’s desire, then the success continues. Of course, by then you would have felt the benefits of following your desire. We tend to associate success first by the physical results. This also does not favor most things.
Emotions and feelings are not physical or tangible, yet they can be a product of success. There is no physical mechanism to measure a ‘good’ feeling. Yet you can achieve a ‘good’ feeling. You can change the state from a ‘bad’ feeling to a ‘good’ feeling. This is just an example. Of course, there is something that must be done to change these emotional states. This would not be commonly identified as success.
Do you think making success an individual affair makes it any smaller? Do you think it takes the meaning away? I think it magnifies it. There are individual goals that we set for ourselves, that when we achieve, we feel proud of ourselves. In this case, it does not matter if anybody else gets to hear of your achievement, but you know that you have succeeded.
A simple thing as practicing gratitude every day is a success. If you manage to do it, for as long as you planned or desired. Is it not a success if you managed to get a journal and recorded your daily endeavors? Or if you managed to be more observant other than react to situations? Now, before other people feel the effects of such success, you would have already felt them. Whether they get to notice them or not, the fact remains that you achieved what you desired.
Make your own measure of success because some of the measures set out for us will just cause more suffering to us. It will involve more of pleasing others and putting yourself last. What is success if you are achieving other people’s desires except yours. It loses its meaning completely. Better still, ask yourself if whatever you are doing means anything to you.