I read a magazine article the other day that mentioned the different types of achievement a writer can attain which would signal success. The list ranged anywhere from writing a first draft to having it land on The New York Times Bestseller Book List or, a more personal form of success, to know that your book made a difference in someone’s life. It got me to thinking… how would I describe success, not only in writing but overall.
For years I carried in my wallet a quote cut from a Dear Abby column. In fact it had stayed in my possession so long that when the words no longer resonated as much as when I first read them, the paper was tinged and well-worn from the transfer in and out of the many wallets the cut-out had outlived over the years. The quote, in part, which has been attributed to several authors, the earliest of whom was Bessie A. Stanley in 1905, is:
“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;…”
When I say that the words no longer resonated with me, although they still sounded good, they just weren’t enough for me anymore in describing a successful life. Rather, they had become a stepping stone towards my description of success. The definition by which I measure my success has grown, changed, evolved, and I’m sure will continue to.
As many people as there are, so are there quotes in defining success. They can be found everywhere: in television commercials, music, in other artistic media and books. Each has wisdom and merit but the only one that counts is how YOU define YOUR success.
When I first started this blog (which took me over a period of several days to complete due to a nasty cold), I left off where my next paragraph began: “I’m not sure if I’ve ever found success. I suppose because I’m not anywhere near ready to be at the end where I’m finished and can look back.” But, now that I have had time to do not much else but dwell over the term “success”, even dreaming about it, my view and thus, definition, has solidified more than ever before.
There is a tangible defining of success when coupled with having a successful career, even a successful marriage. You can see it. A promotion and/or, eventually, retirement; the longevity of a marriage or life-partnership. Outside of that, it’s all up to your interpretation. There are no words that can be written to measure another’s overall success. You can see a quote, a phrase and think ‘yes, that’s something to strive for’ but if you search within, you’ll know in your heart what true success means to you.
There are also those who will define success by meeting a goal. In writing, it could be your first book, signing with an agent, or getting a movie deal. Setting a goal is indeed a golden ring to reach for but if you measure your life’s success with attaining that goal, you are setting yourself up to travel a road fraught with stress and worry – even if the goal is met, but, should the opposite occur, the dead-end to that road can bring with it a danger of depression and feeling of failure. No one’s life is ever a failure and the yardstick to measure it by should never be paired with meeting a goal.
For me, I will now be breaking success down to a day-by-day basis. Did I try to lift someone up, do a selfless act, think positive, be kind to not only another but to me? Did I write?? I can tell you that today was a success for me. And there are so many more things I can draw on to call my day successful for the tomorrows… Staying Mindful (and if you don’t know what that truly means, it’s worth looking up), being productive at my day job, reading – and I’m sure there will be more added as the days grow in number.
As we come to the end of another year, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on how many successes we can look forward to counting in 2017. I’ve read before where some have a jar with a notepad and pen nearby and when something good happens, they write it down and place it in the jar so that at the end of the year, they can go back and read the good things that happened to them they may have forgotten. Not a bad idea. But I think instead, I’ll write down my successes. It will certainly give me something to strive for in 2018…to make it an even more successful year than the year before.
You taking the time to read this blog truly means something to this writer and I thank you. I wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2017 and that you find your own success in each of its 365 days.