It is quite an accomplishment to hike to the top of a mountain, is it not? But, is it success?
For some of us, to be successful means to attain a high position, a certain status, or make a lot of money. For others, success might mean raising a large family, traveling around the world, opening a restaurant, writing a book, or starting a business. And for others, being successful means living a simple, solitary life.
All of these are definitions of success. However, what is it that motivates us to achieve our personal definition of success? What does it mean to live a prosperous and happy life?
Let’s take a look.
Hiking is one of my passions. I love to walk in the Rockies year-round and experience the peace-giving calmness of nature; hiking is something that helps me relax, helps me think, and reminds me that I am a speck in an infinite universe. It inspires my creativity.
One summer, I decided “success” would be to hike to the top of Mt. Sherman, one of Colorado’s fourteen-thousand-foot mountains, or what Coloradoans call, a “14er.” So, with two fit, adventurous friends, I prepared to climb this rocky 14er and was determined to make it to the top.
To reach the summit and call it successful, we had to arrive at the base of the mountain at 4 a.m. That meant none of us slept the previous night, but that was okay – it was part of the fun. We did not want to get stuck at the top of a 14er in a snowstorm and have to climb down the mountain in horrible conditions, so we decided we’d arrive before dawn and begin hiking.
Once our hike began, every step toward our goal was exhilarating. At first, it was pretty easy terrain, and let me tell you there is nothing like watching the sunrise while climbing a mountain dressed in layers from head to toe wearing thick gloves and a headlamp. We chugged along and loved it.
As we reached the last third of the mountain, we encountered steep and rocky terrain. It was now not a hike but a rough climb and the hardest part of our mountaineering adventure. I pulled myself forward, step by step, at times stopping to rest and gasping for air.
Then it happened: I made it to the top of the mountain. I felt successful.
But, was it success?
“The mountains are calling, and I must go. ” – John Muir
At the summit of Mt. Sherman, as I looked across the numerous mountain peaks while listening to the mesmerizing silence, I realized how easy it would have been to quit. The last mile was a bear (we did not see any bears, but pun intended). I was proud of myself for not giving up, because it turned out to be one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.
I realized I pushed myself forward through the difficult parts of the climb because my values were aligned with my goals. If they hadn’t been, I would have given up the trek up the mountain.
What is Success?
Per Dictionary.com, The meaning of “success” is:
- The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.
- The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
- A performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors.
- A person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou
All the above definitions require us to determine what we value. For when we discover what we value, we discover our definition of the word, success. To determine what you value, the following questions might be useful:
What do you love?
Make a list of what puts a smile on your face, whether people or things.
What is important to you?
What is worth your time? Is spending time with people more important than being by yourself? Do you enjoy reading a book, watching movies, or listening to music? Or would you rather hang out with friends at a bar?
What inspires you?
What happens around the world that encourages you? What motivates you to be a better person or to pursue your dreams?
What brings out your passion?
Do you like to build, to draw, to write, to sing, to investigate? What do you drown yourself in that makes you lose track of time?
What do you wish were different in the world?
Hate racism or homophobia? Capitalism? K-Pop (a genre of music in S. Korea, if you did not know)? What do you want to change about the world?
What do you feel you are not able to live without?
What are you afraid to lose? Your freedom? Your family? Your job? Your mind? Whatever you are afraid to lose determines what you value in your life.
What do you believe and why?
Have you taken a good look at what you believe? Or, do you believe what you were told as a child or follow along with what everyone else believes? Do you adhere to destructive ideologies? The answer to these questions will help you see what you value and why.
If everything were taken away from you, how would people see you or remember you?
Who are you without your degrees, your job, your status, your business, your family, your religion, or your money? Who are you if these things were taken away? Are you kind, generous, compassionate, patient, and joyful? How do you want people to remember you after you leave this world? I know these are tough questions, but the answers will help you see what you value or what you might want to change about yourself.
Once you answer the questions above, you will know what you value. You will then be able to define what success means to you.
Success is personal.
“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”- Albert Einstein
If you know what you value, you will succeed; you will not only accomplish your goals, but you will do so on your terms and not live someone else’s definition of success.
I am introverted but outgoing, so I value freedom, independence, friendship, exploration, nature, time alone, ethical living, travel, exercise, kindness, compassion, truth, logic, knowledge, personal growth, egalitarianism, etc. What do you value, and how can you be successful? You define what that means to you.
The mother who raises a family because she wants to is successful; the freelancer who writes a book is successful; the person who earns degree after degree because she loves to learn is also successful; the man who travels the world is successful; the artist who paints on weekends and works at a coffee shop during the week is a success, too. You get the picture!
Don’t ever live someone else’s definition of success. Discover what you value, live accordingly, and climb your mountain. Who knows, you might end up at the top of one meeting a new friend.