Defining success


Sometimes it's all in your perspective (Image via Wikipedia)

How would you describe “personal success” for yourself?  By that standard, are you successful? Describe your journey to “success” so far.

These were a set of opening questions that we posed to a recent set of focus groups. From there were launched into more specific questions more directly related to the study topic. But these questions, with their varied responses and personally-applicable aspects, were the most fascinating to me.

Answers were as varied as the people themselves, of course.  Personal success meant anything from financial success, to completing an educational objective, to having quality time with friends and family… and everything in between.

All of our focus group members indicated that they are successful (or well on their way), though it’s hard to say whether there’s something in the human psyche to define personal success in such a way that we can call ourselves “successful.” It also doesn’t rule out that it wasn’t just random chance (they were small groups) or even something in our selection criteria that skewed us toward people who see themselves as “successful.”

Their journeys to success were all really varied too. They involved overcoming cultural or language barriers, or socioeconomic disadvantage, internal conflicts or health struggles, or the biases of others. In short, becoming personally successful involved overcoming obstacles.

Now, our groups were small. They may not have been representative of the population. Part of assessing our findings for the greater project is to try to sort out what is a real finding that’s group-specific, what is selection error, and what is just the human condition shining through.

I suspect that in the same way a good story needs conflict (between characters or within characters), a success story – even an internal one – needs an obstacle.  And who hasn’t had an obstacle to overcome in their life? Talk to somebody sometime. Take an 8-hour car ride with the most “together” person you know, the person you can’t imagine ever having been anything BUT together, and tell each other your stories. Guess what? Everyone has a story. Everyone has been through something, or is going through something, or both.

I know that there are studies specifically about success. I know that there are theories about success and happiness and what people attribute their success to. I can’t begin to touch on any of that right now.

Regardless of whether our sample was skewed toward people who are more likely to see themselves as successful, or more successful by their own effort, I just think that was an interesting trend.

(pauses and thinks for a while)

What do I consider “success” and am I successful by that definition?

I don’t think I have just one definition.  If I am the best “me” I can be, that is success. If I am using my skills, my abilities, my resources well and wisely and to benefit others, that is success. If I am following Jesus, and walking in the Spirit, that is success. If I have people to love and who love me, that is success. If I am serving my customers well, that is success.

I’m definitely a work in progress.  Am I the best me I can be? No, not yet anyway. Sometimes I succeed at not being the worst version of myself, at least. And the best possible version of myself is something I don’t believe I’ll ever quite achieve on this side of eternity, nor something I’ll achieve at all on my own. I’d have to say I’m half-baked at best at using my abilities and resources wisely enough, or helping enough. I am following Jesus, but I sometimes follow at a distance, or in a zigzag pattern. It’s only by walking in the Spirit that I’ll succeed at all, and this is an area in which I’d like to get out of my own way. I have been blessed with family and friends; by His grace may I be a blessing to them as well. My customers love me. I’m successful in that respect. But then, what have I that I was not given? God shaped me to be driven to serve well, to want to deliver good results to my customers. And honestly, if I am succeeding at that, He’s doing it in me, because I’m really not as good as I would like to be.

In short, I am a never-satisfied-with-self kind of person. Hmm. Interesting.

I’m also a success-comes-from-external-sources person. Well, technically the Holy Spirit indwells me, so that would be an internal external source. Huh. There I go, messing up the theories.  (Hee!)

Which means that all the things I have overcome, I attribute to God’s grace.
It also means that I see myself as on my way to success, and that it’s assured I will eventually get there. You know, if you factor eternity into “eventually.” 🙂

How about you? How would you define “personal success”? By that standard, are you successful? And if so, has overcoming something been a key part of your journey?


About aka gringita
Flotsam generator. Amateur photographer. Avid traveler. Christ follower.

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