What Is Success?

What does it mean to be “successful?” For most of us in North America, we may think of such things as: making lots of money, owning an upscale house and spiffy car, being in a respected career, having well-adjusted children, and even being highly respected by the community.

  I didn’t much care for the word “success” until recently, as (according to the above definitions) I fail in most of them!

  As I begin to see success (and money for that matter) in a different light, I am warming to the word. What is “success” becoming to me? Nothing less than by truly being me, by living my life congruent with who I am.

  Sounds simple, right? Ah, I only wish. I have taken years to begin to truly understand who Ian is, to embrace him, and dare to live what I am about – even when it doesn’t fit the societal norm.

  In psychological terms the “ego” largely determines who we are, how we present ourselves, what we believe others will accept or love, and more. All of this in the name of trying to belong, one of the strongest needs we humans have.

  Now in my mid-50’s, at this point in time, I have more of the luxury of not worrying about what others think of me. I have discovered that many love me more for who I truly am, warts and all. This went totally against my belief that I would be loved only if I were perfect. I have found that being vulnerable is actually far more lovable, and by a wide margin!

  Being successful is also not the same as being amazing. Standing out, changing the world, and being super-human may be other ways many people define being “successful.” While my ego may wish all of these, who would I trample on getting there? And how would I be affected by even attempting?

  I think of parents who try so hard to be seen as successful in the eyes of others and in doing so, fail to share with those they are close to, the challenges in their own lives. Sharing in a variety of ways lightens the load, gives us a sense of connection and wholeness. This is all a part of being human… which is a good thing. I really like the notion that the most important task of parenting is not making perfect children; it is to love them the best we can. Loving, even imperfectly, is success!

  Because we live in a capitalist society, image and status is typically far more important than substance. Looks and appearance sell things, jobs, and more. No wonder we are less happy with ourselves in countries that are more capitalist in nature!

  An old fashioned word, one that I believe needs to make a come-back, is “grace.” Whenever I am being gracious toward myself or others, I feel much better! If being successful means being gracious, accepting myself and others for who they really are, accepting people’s fears and foibles, imagine how much better relationships would be!

  So here’s a wish for you to be graciously successful in your life!

Ian Gartshore, besides being a local writer, therapist, and energy guy, is who he is.