A majority of us knowingly or unknowingly are trained to measure our success based on how others perceive us or how we measure up against someone’s expectations. But have we ever wondered why that sense of success is momentary and why we find ourselves searching for that acceptance and approval over and over again? It’s because the way we measure success is not natural to us as human beings. It’s an unbalanced and unnatural process that doesn’t align with our inner self. It’s momentary because it doesn’t include measuring sticks like better relationships (with family, friends, kids, colleagues), the betterment of humankind and community, spirituality, becoming a better person and more trustworthy, more lovable, touching more lives, preserving our values and integrity. The very basic belief that monetary/material gains always result in long lasting happiness is like a mirage.
At any stage of our lives, we are still that little kid who would prefer to be consistently loved, feel appreciated and recognized, have a loving family and friends rather than just receiving a toy at a frequent cycle that coincides with birthdays, holidays, grades at school etc. It’s ironic that when nearing the end of our lives journeys, our measuring stick for success automatically switches to a holistic one again. However, though still important, money/status is then at the bottom compared to happiness from relationships, satisfaction from lives we touched and made better, time spent with friends/families, recognition from family/friends, or number of people who truly care about us then.
So how do we continue to attain or march towards this holistic success and not limit ourselves to an illusory sense of success?
- Begin with an acceptance of your current situation without judging it as good or bad. There is an inexplicable empowerment, positive energy, and focus that comes with this thought. In absence of acceptance, we continue to stay in a state of turmoil that won’t let us align our inner self with our outer self. This reminds me of something that my father used to say – “there is a reason why you are here because that’s where you are supposed to be and not somewhere else”
- Identify the purpose and then build a strategy to achieve your ultimate goal in life – Think what you would like your ultimate purpose in life to be. It may not be very clear at the onset but you can start with introspection. Trust yourself that if you think deep enough, you will find that your purpose isn’t always what you thought it was. It certainly never just money or status but always more than that. If it helps, ask yourself a question – What I would like to do tomorrow, if today all of my and my family’s needs are met and I do not have to ever worry about not having enough money to take care of myself and everybody I care about? Believe me, you will have an answer, we all do. You may come up with answers like – “I would like to run a non-profit for kids in Africa”, “I want to find a cure for a disease”, “I want to run an orphanage”, or as simple as “I see myself writing a book on the art of living”. Think what will make you truly happy and will give you a sense of fulfillment. Your purpose then becomes your ultimate long term goal in life. With an awareness of our goal, it becomes much easier to come up with strategy to achieve it.
- Create a roadmap for your ultimate goal – We all have obligations, for example, to our families, friends, parents, employers, employees, kids, community, government, country, society etc. On your road map, they are all very important actors. Their happiness and success will define your success, happiness, harmony with yourself, and positive relationships you accumulate throughout your life. It may not always be a straight and smooth road. But consciously keeping yourself aware of where you want to be, you will get there. The actors on your road map, who earlier you may have thought of as barriers; road blocks; or bumps will now be your true cheerleaders; mentors; companions and motivators on your path to success.
- Stay truthful to your values and integrity – As you execute on your strategy by following your road map, your values and integrity should drive all your actions. If you ever find yourself operating under a condition that forces you to go against your integrity and or values then most likely you are compromising with a few or all actors on your road map.
- Above all stay connected to the child within you – Keep on reminding yourself that there is still a child in you for whom happiness is in love, peace, relationships, recognition, acknowledgment, and appreciation. Everything else may seem important but is usually transient. Always look and try to connect with the same child in others as well. Whether that person is your spouse, son, daughter, parents, manager, subordinate, colleague, friend, brother, stranger, customer or anybody for that matter. That child in them also craves for same love, peace, relationship, appreciation, recognition, or just subtle acknowledgment of their existence. It’s the most basic and simple connection that exists among all of us.
As you march towards your ultimate goal, this will act like glue that keeps all pieces intact even when everything around continues to reveal their transience.