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Success! What’s success?

January 15, 2013

What is success?Success191

Is it competing and winning?

Is it doing better in some way than those around you?

Is it making a lot of money?

Is it being recognised by your peer group or wider society for what you doing with your life?

The current prevailing paradigm tends towards quantifying success through money – a fat bank account equals success in the eyes of many.  Does it matter if in earning that money one has polluted oneself, society and the wider web of life? Is a City trader taking home millions in bonuses more successful than a nature reserve warden or midwife taking home a below average income?


So often these days we ask people ‘what do you do?’ as if that is the best way to effectively measure the integrity of the person. And often we are impressed by people who are financially wealthy due to what they do, regardless of what true value it serves life. For instance, a senior executive working at Goldman Sachs maybe viewed by society as more ‘successful’ than a primary school teacher.

In the name of ‘success’ (or a perverted societal perception of success) many of us find ourselves bringing great stress upon ourselves and those around us, often leaving a trail of damage in our wake.  Due to prevalent cultural norms and their power for steering human behaviour, life can become little more than tireless striving towards ever escalating stages of perceived success.success1

Prevalent cultural notions of what success is tend to be concerned with the outcome of what one does.  The idealised destination – whether it is a fat bank account or recognised status among others or a ‘get away’ holiday home in the Med – becomes the goal rather than the act of ‘doing’ itself.  Often, alas, the destinations are goals based on freeing oneself from the ‘doing’ of the work needed to attain the destination.  The ‘doing’ of the action is seen as a means to an end.  The destination and not the journey is what is seen as important.

We run up hills so we can enjoy the views, yet we seem so singularly focused on the successful outcome (which may take much struggle to realise) that the act of doing is perceived as laborious, un-joyful and often a stressful means to an end.  There are of-course some who work for the love of it, yet many work for attaining distant horizons of freedom ‘if only I could have some more money, then I could be happier’ many of us say in the midst of the laborious, slaving away between weekend to pay the bills and budget for the next holiday. Let’s buy a lottery ticket; better still let’s buy one each week and wish our moments away until we win! Oh, how life will be better when we getting to the destination.


On your death bed, how will you judge the success of your life?

In our pursuit of success (or happiness and freedom) we often focus on the doing, the outputs, the rationalisation of what makes success in the societal perception of it. While realising ones potential is important to attaining personal development along with happiness and success, often we a) get so enthralled with attaining perceived success that we know not what success means for our unique self; b) get so entranced with the doing of the tasks ahead of us on the ladder of success we isolate ourselves from the present moment of actually enjoying the doing by being in love with what we are doing at any given moment.  In turn we dis-connect ourselves from what really matters and so incur unhappiness in the pursuit of happiness.  Such actions (which focus on the ends and not also the means) can lead us to do things in ways that are stressful and toxic to ourselves, our neighbours and life in general. Put simply, our life mission could be to ‘help heal the world’ but if we do not undertake each action and interaction with love then we often add more to the problem than to the solution.  No matter how noble the destination, the journey is vital.

It’s not WHAT you do; it’s the WAY that you do it.

The road to hell is paved with many good intentions.

That is not to say that we ought not push ourselves and strive for personal betterment, and in so doing challenge our own comfort zone and so incur personal stress through fear of the unknown. Such personal betterment is vital if we are to realise our own unique creative potential in this life.  It is not shying away from ‘doing’ per se, more it is exploring how we can encourage our doing to become infused with our being – our daily actions also being successful in their own right as well as moving us forward towards personal betterment. Take each small step with love.

‘Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment…sense of quality in what you do, even the most simple actions’  Eckhart Tolle

human nature silence the mindWhen the doing is aligned with a sense of being – that is success.  This is when the present moment flows with universal abundance.  This is when you realise your full potential within that moment (whether it be making a cup of tea, swinging a golf club, teaching a child, selling a car or trading financial derivatives).  Often we are our own worst enemy in realising success, as our rational, analytical mind (over-excited by cultural norms that breed status anxiety) interrupts our state of ‘presence’ with a stream of chattering thoughts often in the form of energy draining worries.

Yet, the doing (paradoxically) can bring about the state of being present if we allow ourselves to consciously connect with what we are doing; then the chattering rational mind quietens as the present moment engulfs us and we enter ‘the zone’ which is our element : the moment where success is realised without the need for toxic activity.

Being while doing.

Being in your heart while doing with your head and hands.

This comes naturally to most artists, musicians and sports players as to realise their potential they have to consciously connect with what they are doing.  Anything else is quite mundane in comparison.


There is a beautifully simple quote which reveals itself to the balanced mind: ‘the most amazing place you will ever be in your life is where you are right now’

The point of the journey is not to arrive : – )

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Austin permalink
    January 15, 2013 3:12 pm

    Great post – full of lovely quotes! It would certainly help if more people took the time to slow down and think about what success or even well-being truly is instead of getting stuck on the treadmill of needing to make more and more money to keep buying more and more unnecessary stuff that rarely brings added long-term happiness.

  2. Jae Mather permalink
    January 21, 2013 12:40 pm

    Another great post Giles thanks. I am playing around with the idea of exploring the articulation of the dream of our collective civilization and then comparing it with where are actions are taking us. Success is the core issue within our civilization as for the most part I believe we have lost perspective to a huge extent just as your article points out.

  3. September 24, 2015 10:15 am

    Reblogged this on Success, Your Way.


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