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Redefining Success

Redefining Success

I know an awesome person. He’s a great family man, perfect employee, & would help anyone at anytime. He’s overcome considerable adversity. Also, everyone loves him. The thing is, he feels like a failure. His life hasn’t unfolded in the way he expected. You know, similar to society’s picture of success?

This breaks my heart. Why can’t this person see how successful he is in life? His internal achievements are vast. Additionally, it’s not like he has no external achievements; he does. They’re just not as grand as he expected.

I think this has a lot to do with the way our society measures success. I also think it’s time for this to change.

Our society measures success solely in external achievements & materialistic possessions.

We base it on things like: scholarly achievements, job titles, house size, & car quality. We’ve been conditioned to believe that things & titles can accurately depict a person’s value & character. Often, we judge success based solely on superficialities. It’s mostly surface stuff with little substance. Isn’t one of the first questions someone asks upon meeting us, “what do you do?”

This leads us to make assumptions about each other, subconsciously putting one another in categories. From trustworthy to less trustworthy. From respectable to less respectable. This either gives us an unfair advantage or an unfair disadvantage, as we all have biases. The problem is that many of us stop there, after that initial categorization. We’re not interested in the actual human being standing in front of us. Instead we’re focused on what they’ve done & what they have. We make our judgements on surface knowledge… on impersonal information that’s probably available on the internet!

This can lead us to either overly trust someone or to unfairly distrust someone. It’s really quite dangerous when you think about it. Rarely does someone’s external achievements also depict their character.

Recently my friend jokingly asked, “so you can be a jerk to your family as long as you’re successful in business?” I’m afraid we all know the answer to that question.

This superficial idea of success leaves good people, like the fellow above, with an erroneous feeling of failure. It also allows terrible people to be deemed successful. There’s a disconnect that doesn’t make sense.

The Missing Component is People & Internal Achievements!

When we’re old & gray we’ll all unquestionably reflect on our lives. Hopefully without too much regret, but surely there will be some. We’ll also have our most cherished memories & stories we tell over & over. What will all of these reflections revolve around? People! Painful or joyful, they’ll involve other human beings & our relationships with them.

It will come down to, were we good enough? Did we spend enough time? Did we build strong & meaningful relationships? It’s not going to be about things! We’re going to be most proud {& most regretful} of people & relationships.

So why then, do we not factor internal achievements into the success equation? When we measure someone up, why do we not consider whether or not he/she is a good person? We act like what people do behind closed doors doesn’t matter. I’m sorry – if you’re a jerk to your family, you’re simply not a successful person in my book. We all, however, have the potential to be successful. Everyone can change. That would be an internal achievement. Of course, internal achievements are much more difficult than external. That’s why so few people conquer them. But isn’t that all the more reason to factor internal achievements into the success equation?

I highly recommend David Brooks’ video on TED Talks, titled “Should you live for your resume… or your eulogy?” He shares similar sentiments but in a more factual way. It’s awesome!

So I ask you, how do you define success? Do you consider yourself successful?

Hard work, external or internal, deserves recognition. However, I believe that the external is only one component of success. In all actuality, it’s not an absolute guarantee of success nor a necessity to success. I believe true success is based on a combination of external & internal achievements. Though the totality of success looks different for everyone, it’s a matter of balance.

What are YOUR thoughts on success?


written by: krista-lee-pfeiffer

Blogger at –

Krista is a wife, mother to two teenage daughters, & a caregiver to her mom. She also practiced commercial interior design for four years. But these days, she prefers to focus on her family & her personal journey of self-growth.

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Thanks for reading, Cassie

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