Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Success: An Ever-Changing Definition

 Image: Google
Hello Optimists,

I have been thinking a lot lately about the many ways we can define success. There are probably close to a million ways you can distinguish our accomplishments from our failures, specify the good and the bad or just smack a label on a "bang" or a "bust". But all of that depends on the way we measure the things in our life. Does success lie solely in the weight of your wallet, in the size of your smile, in the trips you have taken, or in the business you have built? Well, it could. It could be one of those things or it could be all of those things. It could also be all of those things and more. So, success is clearly a complicated concept and one that is extremely hard to define. 

I'm not really sure what I think of it just yet. But there is a great quote by the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson that seems to get pretty close to what many would see as a clear definition that is right on target. Most quotes I feature are one-liners or a few short sentences that are easy to remember because my goal is to make them easy for everyone to implement into their lives. Today's is not so fact, it's quite long, so I don't expect this one to be recalled easily from memory. But what I love about it is that, like most of his writing, he does not hold back with his words, but uses their power to send a message of importance. I know that after reading many of his quotes, I walk away thinking that there is probably not a better way to describe things, and this is certainly one of those times. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson defined success with these words:
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded."
So after sitting around and trying to pinpoint what success really is, I couldn't just settle on one or two things. After reading this quote, I'm glad that I didn't because now I know that success means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I don't know if we can make a better statement or definition of success than the great RWE, but we can sure try. 

If you were to rewrite his quote and include your own thoughts and definitions of success, what would they be?


  1. Ahhh a good question!! Every year of my life I measure success differently. Now that I am a mother my definition always includes my daughter being her happiest... I always hope what I do today will lead her there!

    I thought of you today when a friend posted this quote on Facebook:

    Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you. - Mary Lou Retton

    Have you used that one yet?

    Glad to see you posting again!

  2. @Kathy: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this post. My definition is always changing too, but I think that's a good thing because we can learn to appreciate the things we do over time. Thanks for that wonderful quote - it's going to be featured in my next post!


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