Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. ~ Benjamin Franklin
Progress. Achievement. Success. These are terms we are all familiar with and words that we often toss around nonchalantly as descriptors defining the goals we set for ourselves. We all want to make progress, we want to achieve our goals and dreams, and we want to feel that, in our own eyes and by the definition of society, we are successful. When I find myself in moments where I am questioning success, I realize I am drowning in a game of semantics – as we often do not pause to define any of the terms so readily used to describe our life quest.
I would challenge you today to ask yourself what these mean for you in your life. Define progress, achievement and success.
Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be. ~ Khalil Gibran
Success is steady progress toward one’s personal goals. ~ Jim Rohn
I love the quotes above – progress defined as moving towards the future, and success also defined as movement (progress towards goals). Often we question where success lies – is it ultimately in the journey or our final destination? Perhaps it is in both. A new company may hope to one day grow large enough to make huge profits for investors. Perhaps the first sign of success is a year of breaking even. As one works to accomplish an educational goal, maybe the first sign of success is passing an exam, or a single course – and finally receiving that degree.
I find that we are often much happier in life if we can break our larger goals into smaller, less overwhelming, achievable tasks. This allows us to feel the sustained progress and allow ourselves to celebrate the smaller victories along the way. By celebrating these victories we are able to more easily maintain the long-term momentum necessary for reaching our ultimate goals and successes.
Whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation but through daring. ~ Henry Miller
I agree with Henry Miller, and it is critical to note that not all progress comes easily and sometimes we must be willing to take great risks in order to succeed. This can be very scary. I have personally found that when I play it safe in life I am not living to my fullest potential and I am also not inspiring and encouraging those around me to live to their fullest potential. When I am willing to take appropriate risks and dare to seek growth and change I challenge myself and others in the community to make progress and achieve our goals.
I think it is important to note that contentment is something we strive for, but it is not always what we need in a given situation – and sometimes discontent is far more useful as a motivator for personal and professional growth. In the words of Thomas Edison:
Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure. ~ Thomas A. Edison
Edison is correct – if we are feeling fully satisfied with our lives we are not likely to make any progress. The catalyst for progress and achievement is discontent – this is what motivates us to make changes in our lives.
On a final note, the words of C. S. Lewis ring loud and true – as progress does not always require us walking straight ahead on our current path:
We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive. ~ C.S. Lewis
Today, 312 days ’til 40, I will remind myself that success needs to be measured not only in my ability to reach the end goal, but by the progress and achievement I make along the way. I will strive to encourage others to set obtainable goals (be it to pay off a debt, learn a new skill, pass classes towards a degree, etc.) so that together we can all celebrate the many victories on the way to our goals and dreams.
On a final note, I would encourage you to really ask yourself how you will define success in your life. For you, is success about money? Prestige? Respect? Position? Is success about the home you own, the car you drive or your current checkbook balance? For some of you the answer may be yes, to all of the above – and this is okay. Others may define success differently – perhaps success to them means raising healthy, productive citizens, helping with humanitarian causes, or assuring that in some way the world has been left a better place because of their existence in it. These definitions of success do not have to be mutually exclusive. Some may want to have their dream home and know they are reaching out to those in need.
What does success mean to you? How will you measure it?
April 15, 2012 at 00:28
Success to me is when we get to the end of the day and nothing is broken, we can see a bit more of the river through the 40ft tall banana passionfruit invasion, I am only marginally cut to ribbons by the blackberries and none of my children have phoned up to tell me that they are running away to join the circus (although the circus could do worse than hire my children…they are full of “interesting” talents). It’s when I can drag my sad sorry blackberry spiked weary bones to bed and fall instantly asleep and sleep the sleep of a carefree small child until the dog pushes me out of bed at 1.30am and I have to remember that I am not a carefree small child but a grown woman who if she stays in that position on the floor for that long is not going to be able to move in the morning. Success is not looking at the big picture because the big picture makes you cry. Success is breaking that big picture down into teeny tiny little manageable bites where urban students can take hold of inherited property full of 20 years of neglect and not only effect change…but make it their own. We try to have a teeny tiny little successful event most days to keep us not only motivated but from moving into the space under the bed…we have to evict the dog first…
I really like the idea for this blog. So much so in fact I am going to follow your progress and see what happens. Nothing like a big bang at the end of 400 days eh? Hey…Steve just said “why don’t they build an ark?”…in 400 days you could build 10 arks…not a bad accomplishment and most certainly something to stop your mind from wandering…and by the time you had gotten to ark 3 your neighbours would most probably know that you had decided to find yourself 😉 Have a great day and we will be looking forwards to seeing more thought provoking posts.
April 15, 2012 at 13:54
I LOVE your take on this!!!
April 15, 2012 at 00:45
Excellent, thought-provoking post.
A comment I made on another of your posts this morning inspired a little humorous post on my blog. I thought you might like to see it: http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/the-perfect-stranger/
April 15, 2012 at 13:50
Thank you so much! I enjoyed reading your blog entry!!! 😉
April 15, 2012 at 00:47
Wow, this post hits me at home today. I’ve recently had a lot of changes in my life, as you probably read on my blog. However, I realize that much of the past 10 years was spent less in success than in failure (as described by Jefferson). I was somewhat successful as a provider for my family, and have recently become a success at school, as evidenced by my Associate’s degree.
I think that personal definitions of success can and should change over the course of life. I know that mine has, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
April 15, 2012 at 13:50
Yes, I think that is the case for many of us (changing definitions over time). I am so happy that you came across this entry in a moment when you needed it.
April 15, 2012 at 02:49
I find that we are often much happier in life if we can break our larger goals into smaller, less overwhelming, achievable tasks – this I believe in too. Brilliant said.
April 15, 2012 at 13:41
Thanks! My challenge is to make sure to apply this to my daily life! 😉
April 15, 2012 at 04:00
Thanks for the great post! At 48, success for me has become being happy and making others happy. Anything else is icing on the cake.
April 15, 2012 at 13:32
What a great view of success!
April 15, 2012 at 04:23
Thanks for visiting Gardenhood. Wishing you all good things on your countdown to 40. I really admire that you are making such a conscious approach.
April 15, 2012 at 13:32
Thank you so much, and thank you for stopping by! 🙂
April 15, 2012 at 04:39
I am so lucky to have found your blog. Your pieces are so timely and thought-provoking. I am definitely sharing this one; and will be thinking about all the points you addressed. Also, thanks for stopping in and liking my post today.
April 15, 2012 at 13:32
Thank you so much for the kind compliment!
April 15, 2012 at 04:40
i really don’t know how i define success…i’m going to think about that and get back to you. i do know that playing it safe, is not the way to reach our goals…
April 15, 2012 at 13:31
Very true, we rarely move forward by playing it too safe.
April 15, 2012 at 05:17
Long term goals were always difficult for me in my particular life….and successes I felt were few and far between…because of something previously discussed in a blog …perception..of who I was and what did I really want or think I could achieve…negatively speaking then of course….
My main goal and success. was however always ….raising our children to the best of my ability to be loving, moral and godly ..not saying that they are perfect but I feel that with my husband’s help we did a pretty good job.
Today my goal is to remain untouched by depression again in my life…and my successes will be each day in doing so!! …Diane
April 15, 2012 at 13:29
Such a good point, Diane -and every day (even every hour) lived depression free is indeed a day of success!
April 15, 2012 at 06:20
I would say that success to me is enjoying the journey towards the destination/goal/future.
April 15, 2012 at 13:21
Great answer! 😉
April 15, 2012 at 06:38
Wishing you all the best on your personal journey… inspiring! 😉
April 15, 2012 at 13:19
Thank you so much, please stop by again!
April 15, 2012 at 06:40
By just getting to enjoy the day…a simple measure of success, no? “-)
April 15, 2012 at 13:19
Michelle B. Araneta
April 15, 2012 at 12:19
As cheesy as it may sound, success for me is, being able to have the ability to fall in love with life over and over again, regardless of how hard some days may be.
April 15, 2012 at 13:17
It is really not that cheesy! 😉
April 15, 2012 at 12:31
“I find that we are often much happier in life if we can break our larger goals into smaller, less overwhelming, achievable tasks”
That is so true. Usually, when things are broken down into smaller pieces it’s more likely we can get it done too. Piece by piece…it often works.
April 15, 2012 at 13:17
The Quiet Borderline
April 15, 2012 at 21:20
I feel like I’ve made progress in my life, like becoming religious, moving countries. But unfortunately, making these steps hasn’t filled the void inside of me – At least, that’s how it feels.
In 2 days time, I will be moving from the hospital I have been in for 14 months, to a rehabilitation program. But this place really starts you off from afresh and it’s my big opportunity to do so!
I’ll be setting goals with my psychologist there and hope that I will meet them.
The Quiet Borderline
April 15, 2012 at 22:45
I think that your comments are important and interesting…. you know, some people think that becoming religious and/ or moving will change their inner void and, as you have pointed out, even though these are wonderful things, they do not necessarily bring the inner peace and contentment one would hope for or expect. It sounds like you are heading in a good direction and I wish you the best.
A Light Filled Life
April 16, 2012 at 01:39
If you aren’t moving forward then you are moving backward. Tiny steps is all it takes.
April 16, 2012 at 11:32
Very, very true! 🙂
April 17, 2012 at 11:38
For me personally, success is about respect and hopefully some appreciation for my work – and I won’t lie, a certain amount of adulation/celebration would be nice though I’m equally happy with or without. To deny that one would like to be famous or have a certain amount of celebrity and such is to lie to oneself I feel, but personally I don’t think I’d like to pay the price of being in the public eye beyond a point so it’s not a requisite for my success unless the lack-of gets in the way of my intended achievements.
As an office management monkey among many the world over, my job is just that – my job. Success here is measured by all the normal ways: salary, assignments, travel, etc. But the love of my life is my writing and success there is more in tune with what I said to start with and honestly, if my stories could be out there and I knew that people were reading them and thinking about them and were unfluenced enough by the ideas and philosophies to question and read more or research something that fascinated and things like this – that alone would to me be an utter success. Period.
In the longer run though, I think success for me personally will be to be able to say that I did all the things I intended and wanted to the best possible given the resources and abilities I possess and that I have no regrets that I didn’t do a particular thing. If I can do that and be living a happy life then my life is a successful one Id say.
Oh and completely agree about the discontent and progress – they are inextricably tied together, everyone from scientists to writers to philosophers and all creative professions of any kind see the biggest leaps and greatest work from people who are questioning and who are not satisfied or content with what is already and need to create or find something more.
Great post, nicest in a bit. Cheers.
April 17, 2012 at 21:59
Ahh, I like the idea that success is about respect and appreciation. I agree with you, you are saying that your ultimate success would be to realize your writing dream…. I still need to figure out what a realistic dream would be for me (Okay, I have ALWAYS wanted to be a talk show host, but knowing for certain that is NOT going to happen, I need to find a more realistic, yet still extremely satisfying, dream to pursue.) 🙂
April 18, 2012 at 12:24
Thank you and yes, realising my writing dream and to be the kind of man I think one should be – husband/father/son/brother/whatever – are the two things I would say I want to have no regrets on having either not done or not at the very least tried my damnedest.
And as far as realistic dreams go – my philosophy lies between dream and reality. On the one hand I live with my favourite line since childhood “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”, on the other my belief that we should aim for those stars and beyond and then work at it – and in the meantime life takes you all manner of ways and places both expected and otherwise. Life to me is all about trying to live the dream and also realising that sometimes you can end up not where you planned but simply where you were either meant to be or that you fit better or such.
Life’s unpredictable is my point in a nutshell, make the most of it.
If you want to be a tv host, do a podcast to start. Start a weekly webcast with like-minded friends about topics of interest or the news. Who knows? It might catch on and you might find your niche and if it goes big – be discovered. If not, at least you can’t die tomorrow saying “I never even tried.” Right?
April 18, 2012 at 22:43
I LOVE your philosophy and style! 🙂 Very good idea to start a podcast… perhaps that will be the next 400 days after I turn 40!!! 🙂
April 19, 2012 at 11:53
Many thanks, maybe I’ll update/clean-up and repost my philosophy of life post from a while ago sometime soon 🙂
All the best if you decide to do the podcasting or with whatever route you eventually choose, just so long as you keep the dream alive because they’re what give us the most hope for a brighter tomorrow someday right?
April 17, 2012 at 17:53
Every step in the direction of our destination is a goal achieved. The destination is the final accumulation of those achievements.
April 17, 2012 at 21:43
Thanks, Dion – great insight!