“… status is an elusive entity, popularity an accident, wealth very fickle, and […] only character endures. […] What is truly important has to do with meaningful relationships, making a difference, and creating meaning.” – Manfred Kets de Vries in “Sex, Money, Happiness, Death”.
People tend to compare themselves with others. It rarely is a good idea as it invites one to find oneself better or worse than someone else. And it’s all too easy to find these others to put oneself into the preferred category of the winner or loser.
A very different approach is to observe others, notice how they do things or what they can do. That’s learning.
Comparing oneself with others also means to take one’s measure for success from what is visible, may it be status, popularity, or wealth. These are external measures and other people’s definitions of success.
But, whatever success means to us, it can only be validated through our satisfaction.
Reaching a goal rarely is a means to be satisfied for more than a few days. The sense of accomplishment is fleeting. There is emptiness once the goal is reached. And others won’t do much more than to acknowledge once that it has been reached.
The reason goals are often used is that they can be measured and defined. They have a description.
A description people find much harder to give is what they desire or want. It is a bit like Manfred Kets de Vries describes it: “The unreal is more powerful than the real because nothing is as perfect in fact as it’s in our imagination. Only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, and fantasies linger on.”
It is a regular phenomenon that people end up desiring something they can’t imagine. That’s because desire is an emotional force. It is not rational. It takes time and effort to become able to describe it. Doing so is much more of a cyclical process than a linear one.
Defining success via our desires might thus also be challenging.
It leaves us with the necessity to create our definition of success. The way this can be done is by figuring out what emerges from learning what meaningful relationships, making a difference, and creating meaning mean to us. Another aspect is that it has to allow us to experience success in everyday life. That keeps us going and builds success one moment at a time.