It takes courage to buck the tide, but once you start to experience the freedom that comes from actively creating
your own interpretation of success, you’ll find it easy to move on from people who haven’t yet figured out that having
it all or spending long hours at an unsatisfying job will never define who they truly are, no matter how high the pay. –Elaine St. James
“Actively creating your own interpretation of success.” These are words that none of us should miss, and that all of us should pay close attention to. Do you define success based on what other people call “success,” or do you know what you want to do with your life and do your best to reach your goals on your terms? Do you consider yourself a failure if you don’t reach other people’s expectations, or are you happy to be doing what you know to be important in your life?
In the academic world, for example, the most “successful” people are those who are published regularly, and who have built their reputations on a nationwide level in their own fields. To me, though, success in academics means reaching students, helping them to learn what they need to learn, and helping them to define and reach their goals. My definition of success, then, always will make promotion much more difficult, and it will make the possibility of getting hired at other schools more difficult, but when I go home in the afternoon I know that I’ve spent my time helping my students rather than working on my own research for my own gain. To me, that’s what being a teacher is all about, and though the academic world will not reward me for having a student-centered approach, I know in my heart that I’ve been successful, and that’s what’s important to me.
Doing things on our terms can be difficult, for other people can’t always be expected to understand where we’re coming from. But we have to define our own terms for ourselves, and we have to live our lives for ourselves, searching for our own contentment and satisfaction if we’re ever to be able to help others find theirs.
Questions to consider:
How do you define success?
How do we fall into the trap of seeing success as being what everyone else defines it to be?
What are some of the possible obstacles that we face if we define success on our own terms? What are some of the possible benefits?
For further thought:
The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy:
the strange error that our perfection depends on the
thoughts and opinions and applause of other people.