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?