Coach John Wooden, who won seven NCAA Championships in a row, ironically didn’t define success as winning. Instead of going out to win the game, he told his team that success was “Peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made an effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
Coach Wooden would tell his players that no matter what the score was at the end of the game, that you and only you would know if you were successful. If you gave your all, not just in today’s game, but also in preparation for the match including practice, mental preparation, proper sleep, and nutrition, then you can walk off the court with your head high. But if you hadn’t done your best, you should hang your head, even if the points indicate you were successful by other people’s standards. Talk about high standards.
Another great definition is by Henry David Thoreau, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Notice in both these definitions, there is not one mention of money, winning, or fame. They both reflect a personal standard of living based on what the individual has control over, therefore making success attainable by everyone.
My mother wrote me a letter a year before she passed away telling me how proud she was of the way I turned out. She knew that I had big dreams in life and was always working hard to achieve them. In the letter, she called me a success, not because of financial or business success, but rather because of my family.
She told me how proud she was of Shelley and me and that we were very successful in her eyes because we had such a loving relationship with our children as well as with each other. She went on to remind me that no matter what else I achieved, it would never match the fact that we fill our home with love, respect, and appreciation. In her eyes, healthy living equaled success which Shelley, and I exemplified to her with our family every day.
The problem with so many people is they have made their rules for achieving pleasure values difficult to obtain while making it easy to experience their pain values. Anthony Robbins tells a story of a man at one of his seminars who had defined success as earning $3 million dollars a year, having only 8% body fat, and never get frustrated with his kids, of which he had five. Tony asked him if he was successful and he said no, that he had earned only $1.5 million, (the extra $2 million in bonuses didn’t count), had 9% body fat (incredible if you ask me), and was occasionally frustrated with his kids.
In direct contrast to this was a man at the seminar who was brimming with energy and enthusiasm. He seemed to be enjoying every moment to the fullest. Tony asked him what his definition of success was and he replied, “It is so easy. All I have to do is get up, look down, and see that I am above ground. Every day above ground is a great day!” Now, before you start thinking, “Yeah, but he’s probably not driven to succeed with that attitude” understand that he was earning 4X’s what the other man was, and having a blast doing it.
The trick with defining success is to eliminate the need to attach it to the attainment of some unreachable goal. Instead, make it easy to reach so that every day you can feel satisfied with the progress you are making towards living your purpose. As a result, you will be amazed at how incredibly successful you have become.
Question: What is your personal definition of success? You can leave a comment by clicking here.