It's a fair question. When we look back at our lives and careers, we often think of different episodes in our saga as successes or failures. It's an interesting analysis, because of lot of our self worth really depends on what we consider important in life.
There has to be a benchmark established. We can then measure ourselves against this standard, and draw a reasonable conclusion based on facts.
So what is really important to you? What basis would you use to measure yourself?
Is it money? That's an easy one. If you measure success by the amount of money you have earned, all of the necessary accounting systems are already in place. You only need to decide the dollar amount that you would have to obtain to be considered a success. If you have established a goal for yourself, you have already done just that.
Is it family? If raising and nurturing your family is your most important test for success, it's a little harder to set the standard. Families are dynamic and changing, and evaluation is extremely subjective. You can set your benchmark as low as "nobody is in jail" or as high as "They all graduated from medical school" or anywhere in between. But I think that most parents have an intuitive feeling about successes and failures, and it's all about adjusting and adapting.
Is it prevailing over competition? Whether sports or business, many choose to measure themselves directly against others in the same field or profession. Do you want to be the best at something? To be the best, you must know your competition, and must strive to surpass them. It's another case of a clearly defined success, you must decide which triumph defines success.
Is it recognition? Many people consider success to be determined by others, and not themselves. They look to others to recognize their achievements and accomplishments. However, one can still strive to obtain this notoriety, and can make recognition a fair measure of success.
Is it spiritual? Are your standards defined by religion, spirituality or morality? Many would consider losing money as a success if in means not having to sacrifice a principle. Establishing clearly defined codes of ethics and standards of behavior are great ways of determining success. Everyone one of us knows the satisfaction derived from doing the right thing, and its an easy measure of our success.
In reality, we all know that success in life is a combination of ALL of the above. Sometimes we sacrifice one kind of success for another, but ultimately, we know where we stand against our own measurements. We all know that we often need to make improvements, and that life is a effluent cataract of cascading opportunities and plunging obstacles.
I hope that when all is said and done, that I will look back without trepidation, and say to myself: "Richard, you did okay!"
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