Success Through Service
If you've ever been to a high school basketball game, you've probably heard the "success" cheer. You know, the one that spells it out for you: "S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that's the way you spell success!" At a basketball game success obviously means winning. What about in life -- what constitutes success? We can chant the cheer all day long and certainly know the spelling, but at the end of the day were we successful? More importantly, how do you define success? I was talking with a friend recently, and she said she felt like a failure. I asked her what would make her successful -- how exactly did she define success? She responded: "I don't know."
The dictionary has several definitions of the word "success." Many of them are centered around the attainment of wealth and honors, but the first definition (dictionary.com) spells success as: "the accomplishment of one's goals." That sounds like a reasonable definition, but I've accomplished many preset goals only to end up feeling generally unsuccessful and looking for yet another project to tackle that will make me feel adequate. No matter what I seem to do or accomplish, I haven't found that elusive thing that might contain success.
I hate to constantly blame culture, media, and society, but I think we need to be aware of what surrounds us... what shapes our ideas. It's kind of hard to feel adequate when society tells me that I must be young, have a flawless body, a new car, and a large home. It's not enough anymore to be "just a wife and mother," a woman has to work, go to school, cook and clean, and drive her children to every activity imaginable (the more the better) and keep her man happy. We've been driven to extremes by the media during holidays as we try to recreate Hallmark commercials and movies that leave us feeling "less than" if we haven't created picture-perfect memories. Celebration parties and weddings have become spectacles and are never good enough anyway.
For all of our efforts, where are we as a society? Are we a bunch of successful, fulfilled families and individuals? Of course not. We're a miserable, medicated mess! So why do we strive for success? What is it that we expect success to give us that we do not possess? I suppose it's a sense of self-worth, a validation that we have purpose and meaning, and that our lives are not pointless. Maybe, if we are successful at work, school, home, or better yet all three, we can substantiate our existence. I believe it's a modern response to the age-old question: "Why am I here?" But rather than look inward for the answer we reach out, groping, flailing, and eventually drowning in our own desperation.
If success is the "attainment of one's goals," let's look at the big picture. At the end of your life when you are in a hospital bed bidding farewell to loved ones, what successes will you be remembering? Will it be that promotion? That diploma? That huge house or beach home? Will it be that fancy car? The granite countertops? The designer wardrobe? The expensive vacations and beautiful boat? Or might we be thinking that we "missed the boat completely?" We had this one opportunity to do "something," but we now realize we weren't successful at all.
Today we might ask ourselves: "What is our life's goal? Aristotle said: “All men seek one goal : success or happiness. The only way to achieve true success is to express yourself completely in service to society." He's a smart guy that Aristotle. The only way to true fulfillment is through abandoning our ego and pride and focusing on the betterment of society and others. It's free, simple, and it never goes out of style. In the game of life, our success cheer should be: "S-E-R-V-I-C-E that's the way we spell success!"
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