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How do we measure success? It really depends on how we define it. It’s different things to different people, being case- and very often time-dependent.
In some walks of life, defining success is a bit more straightforward, in theory anyway. The sporting world is one obvious example. The rules of engagement are, usually, easily understood and from them emerge the winners separated from the also-rans.
Of course, normally there can only be one winner and some individuals or teams may have a clear, unfair advantage over others. In such an environment, those who don’t actually win may view their season or career or whatever as a success.
However, on a more personal level, taking our life as a set of interconnected things, judging it as a success (so far; we’re not planning to pack it in just yet if we can help it) is down to the way we view it.
As has often been said, the roads to success and failure are very similar. In fact, seeing life as just one long road with plenty of twists and turns, then the difference between success and failure at any one time just comes down to which side of that road we’re on. It is, therefore, a mentality thing more than anything else — basically which side of the bed we fall out of on any given day, so to put.
Yes, we have to make decisions at various stages along that road of life, but we continue on one path nevertheless. We can’t be on different routes simultaneously.
Even what some people see as fundamental indicators of success can be contested. Take financial stability, for example. On its own, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have achieved success. (Fair enough, the line ‘It’s not always about money’ is easier to utter when you have it compared to when you don’t. So it is said anyway, we wouldn’t know.)
We might have money but we may not have achieved what we wanted to or what we were capable of doing.
Bringing it back to something more natural, the fundamentals of a species, success is ensuring that we pass on our genes to the next generation, and multiple times at that to increase the chances of the germ line continuing for some time.
Yet with the global human population becoming almost too difficult to manage, we could view success as somebody actively limiting the number of offspring he/she has, or not having children at all. In this case, we might not pass on our genes, but we can rest assured that our energy will convert into something else when we breathe our last. Reassuring that.
Thus, success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. That is to say, if others view us as being successful but we don’t feel it ourselves, then it doesn’t really amount to much. In this regard, being successful is linked to finding happiness and fulfilment in what we do.