If we were to ask another how would they define success in life, their definition would likely be reflective of their priorities. I love this question in part of meaningful conversation and with getting to know someone as it gets down to matters of the heart. I don't mean that in a judgmental way, and that's not the point of the question. It merely opens the window for others to get a glimpse of what things matter most to us.
If we define success through status, our answer may have some connection with accomplishing a certain degree of higher education, or perhaps achieving a particular level with our work / career.
If we define success through money, our answer will have some connection to wealth and finance.
If we define success through fame or popularity, our answer will have some connection to how well known we are by others in the public.
I could go on, but you get the point.
The purpose of this post is not to tell you what your answer should be with how you define success. Each person gets to choose what they value the most and how to determine success in their own eyes. That's free-will and part of each person's right to choose.
Instead, I've written this post to simply encourage thought on the subject. It's my intent and my hope that once you've gotten to the end, you'll take a few moments to ponder the ideas and then use observance and rational thought to come to your own conclusions on "what matters most" regarding success in life.
As the title of this post suggests, I believe what truly matters most is increasingly being forgotten in our society and the by-products of that haven't been all that good.
What I'm about to share with you, I honestly don't know who originally wrote it. I had saved it from an email I got years ago, way back when, you know back when we used to get a meaningful note in email on occasion instead of just spam and marketing messages.
The subject line in the email I found attributed the writing to Charles Schulz, the famous creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip, but apparently, this wasn't from him. I did a little research and found he didn't write it, but still, it's worth sharing.
Here it is...
You'll find a list of questions below in the form of a quiz. It's not necessary to write down the answers though you certainly can take the time to do so if you desire for the purpose of this exercise.
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world at the start of 2024.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners in college football.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name five people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last five Academy Award winners for either best actor or best actress in a motion picture.
6. Name the last five World Series, Super Bowl, or Stanley Cup winners.
How well did you do?
If you're like most individuals, you found this exercise to be pretty challenging. Maybe some categories you did ok on because of your interests, but unless you're a trivia buff, there's probably a lot you couldn't come up with.
The point is few of us remember the headliners of yesterday.
These are not second-rate achievers either. These were the best in their field. the best of the best in sports, arts, sciences, entertainment, industry, etc. In the world's definition of success, these were some of the most successful people on the planet.
But the applause quickly dies out.
The awards tarnish.
Achievements are forgotten.
Accolades and awards are eventually buried with their owners.
New achievers receive praise for today, new champions are applauded, new stars are given the spotlight.
And then what....
Remember that phrase "And then what?" This question truly gets to the heart of the matter.
Here's another quiz. See how you do with this one.
1. List a few teachers who aided you and made a positive difference during your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who were there for you in tough times and/or supported you during something difficult in your life.
3. Name five people who taught you something worthwhile in life, doesn't matter what the subject was, only that it was worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time or having a conversation with.
Didn't you find this quiz to be easier? I know I did.
Here's the lesson...
The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, awards, fame, money, power, or popularity. They simply are the ones who care the most.
Recall earlier when I said remember the phrase "And then what?"
Take the time now to ponder that question in relation to whatever you initially may have thought of when defining success in life. It's a great question to ask yourself...."And then what?"
If I achieved "X" what would it really mean?
How would it impact others?
Would it make me happy, give me peace?
What does it mean in the context of eternity?
These kind of questions are worth pondering.
Look there's nothing wrong with setting goals and objectives to achieve a certain level of success with athletics, academics, your vocation, or whatever. That certainly in and of itself is not bad.
In fact, we could make a lot of arguments for the benefits of setting goals and achieving success in endeavors (both individually and collectively for the greater good). We wouldn't be driving in cars, using light bulbs, personal computers, etc. without this striving.
But what if the "goal" becomes ALL about us (me, my, mine)? If how we define success is centered on what is does for one self then....
What happens when we achieve it?
What then, and then what?
It's like the old adage of hearing the words "I really wish I would have spent more time in the office" from someone on their death bed. Not!
In the end, what does so much of how the world defines "success" truly matter?
It's certainly true, that not much worthwhile comes without sacrifice. Something must be given up in order to gain something else. Again, that in and of itself is not a bad thing. It simply depends on what was given up.
Sacrificing time for example can be worthwhile for the achievement of something meaningful. But ask yourself what time did you sacrifice? Was it time spent on yourself that you simply put to better use, or time sacrificed at the expense of others?
Sacrifices made for others, no matter how great or how small, will stand the test of time.
Most of us won't remember who won the Super Bowl or Grammy's when were in grade school, but we'll likely remember that teacher or coach who gave us a word of encouragement, believed in us when others didn't, etc.
Acts of kindness, acts of service, acts of love done for others, matter.
Today, tomorrow, forever.
Work hard and set meaningful goals. It's a good thing. Just don't lose sight on what truly matters most.
Sure, aim high, live with purpose and passion. Just remember to do good to others along the way.
On a personal note, in all humbleness and full disclosure, I've not always done the best job of what I'm writing to you about today. Quite frankly, many times I found myself consumed by a particular goal or meeting a personal want or need that I simply lost sight. But thankfully, the older I get and more I understand this truth, the better I do with focusing on what matters most in the present.
Press forward, don't get caught looking in the rearview. We're not finished products. Remember that. Be willing to forgive yourself.
I want to encourage you with the reality that you can make a positive difference in someone's life today.
Look for an opportunity to do something nice for someone today without looking for something in return. Look for an opportunity to say something kind, lift them up, think about how you may be of help or service.
Do this, for if no other reason than simply because you know how good it makes you feel when someone does it for you.
A mere smile or simple compliment might just make someone's day and change their entire attitude. Sow seeds of kindness. Until next time. Be blessed - S
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He has over 24 years' experience with fitness coaching and consulting and specializes in training programs for middle age and mature adults. If you live in the Charleston, SC area you can schedule a no-obligations consultation.
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