The Success Puzzle
The discussion of what makes us successful has been going on for a considerable period of time. Many of us are tempted to fall for fads, schemes or popular culture concerning the meaning and methods for achieving success in our lives. Many of us have come to believe that success is about setting personal goals, and tracking our progress on those goals. Others view success as a “life purpose” that we seek to accomplish.
Many of these perspectives contain important elements of truth, but many of them are also missing some very important elements. By understanding these key factors of personal, professional, and professional achievement, we can learn how to create our own vision of success.
The first step on the journey toward our life’s goals and purpose is to create a clearer picture of what they look like. Each person’s ambitions are unique, but many people share a common passion for some area of interest in their life, and a desire to pursue those interests. When we develop a vision of the direction that we would like our lives to move, it frequently involves the ability to spend more time engaged in the activities that we enjoy. This frequently leads us to believe that they key to success is simply to attain more of what we want.
More is Not Always More
The common conception that many people hold is that they will feel more fulfilled in their life if they can simply achieve more. More money, a nicer car, a bigger house, more vacation, more time to follow their interests. The implicit problem that we run into when thinking in the context of “more” is that our time is a finite quantity. Each day only contains 24 hours, and there is only so much that we can fit into that amount of time.
Thus, the pursuit of more becomes a study in time scarcity. Assuming that we are able to attain the additional things that we want, it is highly likely that they will create additional time commitments that we must undertake. When these time commitments are added to our existing schedule, it frequently leaves us with more to do than we have time to do things. This abundance of projects and scarcity of time frequently leaves us shorting the aspects of our life that are highly important (such as personal relationships) but not articulated on our sheet of goals.
What you Subtract is More Important than What you Add
The next level of insight in the attainment of success is to understand that our most important decisions are frequently not what to add, but what to take away. The only way that we can avoid a permanent time crunch that leaves our friends and family out in the cold is to re-arrange our personal, professional, and financial priorities on a consistent basis. This means that when we add something, we must be prepared to take something else away.
In the real world, trade-off decisions are a fact of life. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. There are decisions that must be made, and the way that we make those decisions will have a tremendous impact on our future. The way that we can keep our life in balance is to continually monitor our balance of activities to determine when it is time to add something and when it is time to remove something or change the way we do it.
Success is an Equilibrium, Not an Achievement
What all of this ultimately means is that “real” success is not an achievement … it is an equilibrium. It is a balance of things we want and things we do that deliver the most total happiness and satisfaction that we are able to achieve. Unfortunately, there are very few success authors who are teaching this truism, and there are many people who are seeking success in the context of goals and achievements.
Granted, goals are very important. However, goals are not the end … the are a means. For example, many people profess a desire to run a marathon as a goal in their life. What most people really mean by this goal is that they would like to adjust the equilibrium of their life in such a way that they can increase their level of fitness to a state where they can train to successfully run a marathon. However, what this goal-setting process frequently misses is that it is possible to complete a marathon without being in optimal fitness (albeit at a slow pace), and that it is possible to achieve considerable fitness without ever running a marathon.
What happens when we place too much emphasis on the goals themselves is that the equilibrium can be lost. The desire to run a marathon can come to dominate our thoughts and actions. (Especially for Type-A folks)A In this way, the goals we are seeking can take on an obsessive nature that displace many of the other highly important aspects of our life in the single pursuit of a particular goal.
As we go throughout our lives, we should seek to keep our goals and ambitions in perspective so that they are viewed in the context of our life’s larger equilibrium. This is the way that we can stay balanced and pursue the “real” success that is a (whole) life that we want to live. The decisions that we make will all echo throughout our future, so it is important to choose wisely.