You can have everything you want without ever having the one thing you truly need to be successful.
Money will endow you with the capability to afford the things you want but the things you need are far harder to purchase. It can provide you with all life’s pleasures without giving any of life’s necessities.
Fame will bring you recognition. It will afford you respect due to your excellence, preeminence or outstanding performance in one small facet of your life. Quantifiably, you may be considered successful for that one thing you are famed for but in terms of the most intrinsically innate measure of success, you can still fall short of what’s required.
Respect gives you social currency. It is far less quantifiable than fame or wealth but it can be the most satisfying. Knowing the people around you admire you, care for you and respect you can be one of the most gratifying feelings in the world. It gives you purpose and worth which personally make you feel like you are achieving something and what you are doing is worthwhile. But respect does not guarantee you are having a successful life either.
In fact, all of the above are useless in identifying success unless you also have something else. In my mind, the definition of a successful life is incredibly simple: personal happiness.
Even if you achieve all of the above; money, fame and respect, but happiness remains elusive how can your life be quantified as being successful? Ultimately the only thing you have to succeed in achieving is pleasing yourself.
If you achieve everything you list above, your life may be successful according to historical precedent or expectation but your own unhappiness will never morph into success.
You could bring happiness to millions or become the richest person in the world but without personal happiness you have failed at the most pertinent and simple of life’s measure; you will never be a success.
Conversely, if you achieve personal success none of the alternative measures matter. That may sound hard to believe but if you take a moment to think about you’ll realise it is true.
Shaolin monks are, by all indicative measures, some of the happiest people in the world. They aren’t rich, they don’t have any fame out with the title they belong to and they may only ever be respected for what they are not who they are individually.
Yet they are almost indescribably happy to a man. Why?
They are content — They don’t take anything for granted. They have dispensed with their egos and understood a crucial truth of life. They have perspective. Often they have foregone life’s luxuries but they have found a higher peace which doesn’t detrimentally affect their happiness. They wash clothes by hand, they fetch water. People believe their lives are hard and don’t appreciate what they have. They take every day things for granted. The adage of not knowing what you have until it is gone vehemently applies.
Passions, not possessions make them happy — They have found something they are incredibly passionate about. They don’t worry themselves about the latest iPhone or staying on trend. Materialistic possessions don’t phase them, reliance on your happiness corresponding to the things that come and go out of fashion is incredibly stupid, instead they focus on the things they care about. They pursue their passions.
Don’t fear death, live — Instead of worrying about the future they focus on living each day. You only have one life yet people waste it. They throw time away on social media, chasing the most frivolous of things and missing the things that truly matter. Before you realise it you’ve died and wasted your one and only chance at living.
The reality of life is that death is always impending. The only known unknown is when it happens. That should inspire you to make the most of every single second of every single day you are afforded instead of vacantly searching a black screen for answers from people you could be creating memories with.
Stopping will help you go further — Sometimes you need to stand still and take note. People are often moving too fast to take stock of the things they have. In the modern world we miss things, we become distracted and don’t recognise the things happening right in front of us.
View life as a road trip. In order to progress as far as we can, we have to stop to refuel. You may be going faster than somebody behind you to being with but if you fail to stop and refuel they’ll pass you by when you break down at the side of the road.
By stopping and taking a break every once in a while you get the break that lets you keep going. Meditation can be a way to recharge. It can allow you to reassess plan and maximise the journey to achieving your goals. It lets you achieve clarity and escape from the debilitating smog of stress and work.
They meditate every day — Meditation has been hijacked and become a fad. Instead of being viewed as a state of mind you have to find and cultivate every day it has been commercialised by classes you attend once a week. Don’t lose sight of the things that matter and what must be done in order to achieve happiness. It is easy to be blinded by the next big thing. The reality is often tougher than the things you are led to believe. Let historical precedent guide you.
Don’t be afraid of silence — Life has led us to believe that without noise nothing is happening. TV dominates our consciousness, restaurants are loud and anywhere you go the ambience is one of buzz and bustle. People have become afraid of silence.
They think silence signifies a lack of progress instead of an inner peace. Without noise, they don’t know what to think about. Instead of being able to let the mind wander they require stimulation which leads you. In order to find happiness and focus you must learn to love the silence, learn to control your thoughts and learn to control your focus by directing it.
Wake early and embrace the day — How many times do you press the snooze alarm each morning? What are you hiding in bed from? Think about it, every minute you spend in bed with your eyes shut is a minute you could be doing something else. What are you scared of? What are you avoiding?
People who are happy rise early. They embrace the day and are energised by the potential of what is to follow. Do you love your job or are you waking to endure another day? Waking up early becomes a habit. It’s about getting up and meeting the day. Go outside, go to the gym or read. Do something worthwhile and let your mind awaken.
Children don’t sleep late. They embrace every morning the second the light enlightens their room. Life is a wonder to be discovered. They love the joy of life. Find that joy, search for your passion. If you haven’t found it or if you have lost it what better reason to get up early. Go find it!
Define Goals, Define yourself — Our goals are who we are. What we are striving for defines our lives. If you have no goals what are you aiming for? If you’ve lost your hopes and dreams you wander through life unfulfilled. Instead of defining and achieving your own goals all you are doing is contributing taxation to society. You can be so much more.
Finding yourself defines yourself. Recognise who you are. Identify what you stand for. You need to disengage and identify the things that really matter. You need to realise you are moving forward and achieving. Each week I write down the things I’ve learnt in the last week. I record the things I have done that propel me towards achieving my goals. It enables transparency and accountability and if there are two weeks in a row where I haven’t achieved significant progress I don’t wait for things to change, I actively change it. I never wait for things to change for me, I become the change and I enact it. If you aren’t actively enriching your own experiences who will? what are you waiting for?
Give 100% every day to everything you do — Never just post it in. You’re not going to feel 100% every day, are you going to allow that to decide how much effort you put in and ultimately decide what you get out of life? If you only give 50% every day you’re really only living half your life.
Life is about choices. If you love something, do it every day, do it to the best of your ability and enjoy it. You should crave the things you love. You must commit. Whatever fascinates you and consumers your conscious thought: do that. If you give 100% you will always get 100% back.
Responsibility gives you purpose — Embrace what are you are trusted with, lead don’t manage, teach don’t tell. Responsibility hardens us to the rigours of life. Responsibility defines you by giving your opportunity and meaning. It’s an intrinsic push that forces you to improve, whether that is as a father, a friend or colleague. Those people you know who lack responsibility, I’m sure, also lack purpose. Think of three people now.
Find your ‘why’ — Find what you are living for. Seriously think about the things that make you happy. Record them and reflect on them. Once you find your why you have found what makes you happiest, nobody can change that. Know why, then know why. Never be the one to ask why you should do something, only do the things that you know why.
Once you know why you have the answer. Once you know why you won’t have to ask what it means to be successful.
Your why is your happiness.
Knowing why is when you know you have a successful life.