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?


28 comments:

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    1. Thanks so much. Think of success as you downsize!

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  2. "He has achieved success who has worked well, laughed often and loved much." (Elbert Hubbard) What I value most in life are my relationships with family and friends, good health, security, travel and adventure. That's not a list of everything I value, just those things that are most important to me at this stage of life. Success, for me, comes when I'm able to achieve a happy balance among all of them.

    This was a thoughtful and thought provoking post, Bob. Nicely done!

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I am sitting on the back porch at the momemt, enjoying the birds at the feeder, a cup of coffee and a good book. This is one measure of success for me.

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    2. That sounds wonderful to me, and I can relate. During winters here in the northeast when we're not able to sit on the front porch, we turn our two living room rocking chairs around to face the mountain views out the big front window. It's a favorite place to read or talk or enjoy a cup of coffee. No bird feeders though - they draw bears in this neck of the woods.

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  3. The feeling of success seems varied and personal. To me it is having "enough" in your life to experience the feeling of gratitude, often.

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    1. Experiencing the feeling of gratitude as often as possible certainly equals success. Well said.

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  4. Hi Bob! What a great list of what you feel brings value, peace, meaning and happiness to your life. And as you might have guessed I call that "rightsized!" As you point out, I think the items you list here are unique to you and your family--even though they might be described in a similar way by most of the rest of us. Isn't it nice at this stage of life to have a strong sense of that? And although, as you point out, things will constantly be changing and it's necessary to be adaptable, I think they are touchstones that will stay with you for the rest of your life. ~Kathy

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    1. It has taken me several years of retirement to understand what both makes me happy and leaves me feeling fulfilled.

      As you note, my way isn't necessarily anyone else's. My goal for this post would be to have readers think through their own list.

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  5. There have been many types of success and satisfaction in my life. Having a husband who got transferred frequently, over the years, kept me on my toes. I've had several different businesses and enjoyed them all. Since I seem to bore easily it was fun to change things up. After he retired from his retail career I turned to writing. It's kept me busy and, I enjoy it. I may have another book roaming around in my head. We'll see.

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    1. You have had a varied working life and a very different one since moving. Of course, since you and I actually worked in radio in the same city, I just figure you are a complex interesting person....like all ex-broadcasting folks!

      I have been sending some of your beautiful cards to friends and those who I want to thank. Go ahead and write another book, but don't back away from your art. You are very talented.

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    2. Thanks, Bob. That was so kind of you. I am getting back into art more lately. Part of it is for the next Duffy Chronicles...The Cosmo Years. He was such a crazy dog! So I'll be able to handle the artwork with the words. Should be ready fairly soon.
      Let's all stay healthy!!
      b

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  6. I think your list pretty much covers it for me too.I also wanted very much to raise good children so having a son who still enjoys our company, has a successful career and is an interesting guy , helps me feel successful too. Another element of success for me is that I have grown spiritually and continue to find new ways to appreciate and practice the spiritual principles I study. Lately Tibetan Buddhist texts (Dalai Lama) are very comforting..so simple and easy to put to practice in daily life!

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    1. One way to gauge success is through the maturing of our children. If you have launched a child into adulthood and he or she is making their way in the world with integrity, that is certainly a success. I know you and Ken are both proud of your son and spend lots of time with him. Not everyone has that type of relationship with a grown child. Congratulations on a job well done.

      Spiritual growth, or at least increasing interest, seems to come with age. It might be that our years left are less than our years behind us and we are trying to figure out what lies ahead. Whatever the reason, like you, I have been on a major adjustment in my view of all things religious. It has been fascinating and actually quite calming.

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  7. It's taken me a long time to feel comfortable with myself, but I'm finally getting there, I think. It's a great feeling, and I wonder how much of it is just living long enough to accept myself as I am. And having someone else accept me just as I am is huge. I agree with every point on your list. Another great post!

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    1. Life really is a journey, isn't it. Age comes with its own challenges, but I would never want to go back to a time when I really didn't know who I am or what was really important to me.

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  8. Great post Bob and I agree with everything that you have written. I've learned a lot about myself since they pushed me out of my banking job and while the transition at first wasn't easy it's getting better day by day. The one thing I do struggle with is contentment. For some reason I'm never satisfied I always need to do more, and learn and grow. Maybe not being content is not such a bad thing? Maybe one day I will be content but not today.

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    1. We are raised in a culture that believes more is better. We work in industries where productivity is crucial to our success and continued employment. is it any wonder that we enter retirement with that part of our personality still stuck on high?

      Over time, we learn that growing and learning are important (and fun). But, we can do it at our own pace, when the spirit is willing. Contentment builds from that awareness.

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  9. Excellent choices, Bob.
    I see happiness and contentment as a common theme in most of them and those are two areas I am exploring, with a hat tip to Buddhist meditation.
    I practice to stop craving things but so far, even simple dark chocolate is still getting the best of me...
    I also believe that to attain happiness, being satisfied with what we already have is much more important than getting more of what we want, i.e. the correlation between our objective conditions and our subjective expectations.

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    1. I may take issue with trying to control the joys of a piece of dark chocolate, otherwise we are in sync. We are living on about 40% less than when I was working, and we don't feel we are missing anything. Life is filled with simple pleasures, time to enjoy it all, and no pressure to succeed or dominate. It is wonderful.

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  10. Success is an internal determination for me. It's not always determined by the outcome but by the effort and the try invested in the outcome. Success is so relative and subjective. This daily reminder is posted on my fridge - Being comfortable with yourself is the ultimate freedom. I would also say it's a measure of success. Every so often, someone asks me about my love life to which I respond it's full. Romance aside, I love and I am loved. Add a measure of self-love to that. The security I feel with a stable financial situation and having enough outweighs the physical trappings of a fancy house, car, job, vacation, social life, etc. My life is anything but fancy but it's enough having what I need and some of what I want. I feel successful at the end of a day when I have accomplished something that needs doing and something that wants doing.

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    1. I love your final sentence, Mona. That is one of the simplest and most complete summaries of success I have read. Add to that your "I love and am loved" and you have summarized this post.

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  11. Good question! For me, I think success is being content -- at peace with myself, grateful for my blessings, patient with my challenges, engaged with life, abiding in quiet joy.

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