February 27, 2020
What Does Success Mean To You?
Or, as Author Michael Gurian asks in his book, The Wonder of Aging, "Have you found what you are looking for?"
Success in one form or another is important to all of us. The key is figuring out what success means to you. Is it measured by material safety and a lack of worry over the basics of life? Is it a powerful relationship that fills your days with happiness? Is it leaving a legacy with family or your community?
Maybe it is a very internal determination. You feel successful because you are content with your life. You are willing to accept the reality of aging but not content to allow it to diminish your approach to life.
Here are some possibilities for you to consider. These are important measures that I strive to follow. What about you?
To be comfortable with myself. This means accepting who I am. It is finding a way to be content and at ease. While striving to progress in some part of my life, 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. Being comfortable doesn't mean being static. It does mean I generally like who I have become.
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 43 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. That is a life-affirming fact.
To have family nearby. I have written several posts about the importance of families and those relationships.Having both grown daughters, my in-laws and their extended family, and my grandkids all within 15 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. We don't judge (at least not in public!).
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 with what we have. 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. That mindset continues even in our empty nest phase. 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. That might be the most impoirtant legacy there is.
I have lived long enough to understand one very important reality: my definition of success is constantly changing. It is very possible that one part of my life may move in a direction I find encouraging and positive while another part seems stuck in place, or may even be moving backwards.
I have come to the point in my journey where I can celebrate the part that is succeeding while not ignoring something that is not, but not letting that area bring me down. I can celebrate success where and when it occurs.
What is success to you? Have you really thought about it? Has your definition changed?