Is Success A Trap?


How do you define success and when do you know you have achieved it? That’s a question I have often asked, been asked, and heard others ask. It’s a question I now realize I’m not in a position nor care to answer.

Modern society is entranced by success and it comes in many forms. For some, it might entail the accomplishments of their children, attracting a partner, financial net worth, or a home or the accumulation of possessions. It could mean their rise up the corporate ladder or some entrepreneurial endeavor. Still others may look for numbers of friends, likes, or size of their social network. Maybe the size of charitable donations, travel, or time spent with others may matter. Success may center around the completion of a bucket list or sports accomplishment or attaining a worthy goal. There is nothing inherently wrong or bad with any of that, but isn’t there more?

I’ve coached and interacted with legions of successful folks, some uber-successful. Many, however, were not happy, fulfilled, or satisfied. Some were looking for the acceptance, approval, or attention from others. Still others were looking to fill the childhood hopes of their parents or running to escape some fear or inadequacy. Success in one area of life may not translate into other parts. And when one success is attained, many struggle to find continuing significance. Accomplishment from the perspective of self-esteem is worthy and should be celebrated, but if you look for the adulation of others from it, your bucket has a big hole in it.

Success is too multi-faceted for me to concern myself with anymore. Perhaps on my death bed or on some post-life review will it be time for me to assess my own success or lack of it. Alternatively maybe it’s for others to judge. Is it useful for me now?

So what’s important to me and drives me. It’s GROWTH in continually and constantly narrowing the gap between who I am today and my best, highest self. When we do that, we open the doors up to fulfillment, happiness, and satisfaction. Isn’t that the criteria for a life well-lived? I’ve lived long enough to realize that everyday I do not necessarily close that gap. Sometimes I go backwards and widen it, but the simple fact that I notice and chart my progress, and keep trying gets me excited and keeps me going. I pity those who don’t include growth as part of their daily regimen.

I’ve been alive well more than 25,000 days and if I can create net improvement on just 2,500 of them, that’s a lot of progress isn’t it? Just closing the gap a tiny bit between where I am today and what I am capable of is exciting isn’t it?

In the meantime, I’m doing the best I can and I suspect you are too. When we begin to realize and then work on that, amazing things can happen. I am convinced that growth is why we are here. We can never predict exactly when that process may conclude, but for me that defines a life well-lived, and just maybe a hint of success without any traps!

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