September 15, 2010

How Do You Measure Success?

Success in one form or another is important to all of us. The trick is figuring out what success means to you. That takes time and thought. The answers may not be what you expect them to be. Here are 6 measurements that define success to me. What about you?

To be comfortable with myself. This means accepting who I am and have become. It is finding a way to be content and at ease. While constantly striving to be better, it means accepting what is good and bad in me. It means being firm in my values and beliefs, though always open to adjusting after receiving new information.

To have at least one person love me enough to take me for who and what I am. In my case it is my wife. After 34 years I still find ways to irritate or upset her on a regular basis. But, I know she is fully committed to our life together. For better or worse wasn’t just a sentence in the wedding ceremony. She hasn’t stopped trying to help me grow and work on my weaknesses. But, her love is not conditional on my making specific changes.

To have family nearby. I have written several posts about the importance of families and those relationships. Click here for a sample.. Having my parents, both grown daughters, my in-laws and their extended family, and my grandkids all within 30 minutes is a tremendous blessing. Success comes when all of those people look for opportunities to get together. We enjoy each other, we care about each other, and we are there for each other.

To be financially secure enough to handle the bumps without crashing. I retired before I was financially ready, but I had no choice. My business was disappearing before my eyes. My family was suffering from my travel schedule. In the end, the decision was to make do with what we had and make it work. Because we had always lived below our means we had saved enough to give it a shot. We are homebodies and very content to be with family, friends, and ourselves. We don’t need a lot of extras. That has enabled us to survive with very little change in our way of life through various recessions, housing price collapses, and lost investments.

To understand that experiences are more lasting than things. When it came to some large expense, our kids were often part of the decision. They would understand that choosing one thing would affect something else. When given that choice, as a family we almost always valued experiences over things. Good memories cannot be repossessed or foreclosed. They are always available and always increase in value.

To leave something positive behind. Even if we don’t say so out loud, every one of us hopes we are not forgotten when we die, that there is something we leave behind that lasts. It could be discovering the cure for cancer or a new design for a more efficient solar cell. It could be that you gave life to a child, who gave live to a child, who gave life to a child. It could be a scholarship fund for deserving students. Or, it could be that you lived your life with honor, integrity, and dignity and were an inspiration to others.

Each individual defines success in his or her own way.  What is success to you? What items are on your list?  Have you really thought about it?

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  1. I think that your definition of success covers all of the key variables - content with yourself, happy in your family life, and realizing that money is not the answer and things do not make you happy. And I really like your getting the kids involved with big financial decisions to voice their opinions but more importantly to learn that life is about trade offs - you cannot have it all nor do you need it all. Based on your summary, I thank that you can consider you a success by any definition...

  2. Having the kids involved in deciding on a choice between experiences and things worked out well. Both girls are grown and on their own, but still favor memories over stuff.

    Learning that life is often about trade offs is a good point. I'm afraid our culture tends to teach "you are entitled to whatever you want" more often than not.

  3. Really enjoyed today's post on ways to measure success. Totally agree. Looks like you and I have more in common than I thought. My wife and I will be married 33 years in November. One of your items really hit home. The one about having family around. I grew up in south Alabama with a family that tended to stay put with each generation staying close by. My wife and I grew up 10 miles apart and our families knew each other. Both of our parents still live there and are in their late 70s (my dad is oldest at 80). We got married, bought our house and stayed there for the first 15 years of our adult lives. Our son was born there. When he was 7 (18 years ago) we moved 250 miles away to the north Atlanta suburbs for my career. Best move we ever made. My career opportunities really opened up there and had a great life. And, we were still close enough for weekend visits regularly. Once our son left for college and then subsequently moved to the Boston area for his career, things really began to change for us emotionally. As I neared my decision to retire, we had to consider where to live. One choice was to stay put in our house in Georgia. No family around but lots of "job/life" acquaintances and friends. But the house was too large (although paid for). We decided in the end to sell and move to MA to live near our son. We are renting a small apartment about 12 miles away from him and have been here a little over one month. So far so good. Problem is, we left the rest of our extended families MUCH farther away in south Alabama. Skype, emails and cheap long distance all help. Did we do the right thing? Don't know yet. I'm still struggling with that somewhat. Need some time I guess. I'd really like to know if other boomer retirees are facing this.

  4. I grew up in the Boston area. It is a fascinating and vibrant place to live. Winters can be long and cold, but that could be an exciting change for you and your wife.

    The situation you find yourself in is not unusual. It is quite common for parents to move closer to a grown child. It is also quite common to miss the family and friends "back home."

    At 25 do you think your son has made his last move? If he ends up moving to another city for his career what would you do? Another new adventure?

    There are all sorts of studies about retirees doing exactly what you did. They are quite content living close to a son or daughter while building a new life with a new circle of acquaintances.

    The flip side of those reports are parents who, after a time, move back to be with friends and other parts of the family.

    You will need to give the situation some time to develop. I do believe you were very smart to rent an apartment instead of immediately buying a home. That gives you flexibility no matter what happens.

    I encourage others to share their experiences in similar situations.

  5. Bob,
    Another excellent post. Here's a link to an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review that shares some excellent perspectives you seem to embrace. Enjoy.

  6. Thanks for the support. Unfortunately, there was no link provided. I'll be glad to add it if you'd like to e-mail me or post another comment. It sounds as though I'd find it interesting.

  7. Here's the link:

  8. Thanks, J295 for the link. You are correct. I did enjoy the article "How will you measure your life?" I encourage fellow readers to cut and paste the link above. The article is short, but is worth your time.

  9. Bob thanks for linking to the Life Lessons Series. Appreciate that.

  10. You are welcome. I've already cleared a few hours of my schedule this weekend to go through all the posts on the lessons page. Quite a resource.


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