What is Success, Really?

Success can be defined in a number of ways, depending on who is defining it, his or her perspective, and the type of activity being evaluated. Success for a student who is math-phobic may mean passing calculus and never having to take another math class, whereas success for a student who excels in math and hopes to attend MIT may mean getting an A in the same calculus course. Success can be defined by external criteria such as money, fame, love, recognition, and by internal criteria such as fulfillment, happiness and peace, or a combination of the two. If you are trying to motivate someone else, it is important to understand that person's definition of success and perhaps encourage them to broaden these definitions to include more attainable goals and standards.

External criteria are factors such as material wealth and the perceptions of others. In this regard, success might mean earning more than $100,000 dollars a year or receiving an award as Outstanding Teacher of the Year. External criteria are influenced by one's culture: success may be defined very differently in Kenyan culture and Thai culture -- or even in the cultures of Northern California and New England. Internally defined criteria consist of one's own perceptions and definitions of success. Internal criteria may consist of satisfaction of goal fulfillment, a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of meaning in one's purpose in life. My definition of success is simply "doing who you are." (Just as long as "who you are" isn't hurting anyone else.)

Most people are in some level of denial about their life satisfaction. One of the first steps to getting motivated is to acknowledge that you definitely need or want improvement in some area. The following exercise is designed to assist you in determining your current satisfaction level in your life. Once you have determined the areas that you are not satisfied with, you will be able to set goals around improving those areas.

The question of whether internal or external motivation produces more effective and/or longer lasting results is the subject of ongoing debate, and many theorists are now stressing the interrelation of the two types. Jung's work focuses on integration of both the "ego" (external) and the "self" (internal). Also, it has been shown that as one pursues a goal for extrinsic reasons, the motivation often transfers into intrinsic needs. Thus, what starts out simply as a desire for a material thing, can evolve, over the course of time, into a part of the person's being, or core self. For example, a teenage boy who gets a part-time job at an auto garage to make some extra money for a car, finds out that he loves working on cars. He then enters full-time training as an auto mechanic and loves his work.

Your values, those things most important to you, will also have an effect on your motivation. Is it more important to you to be very wealthy or to have free time to pursue family or hobbies? If your answer is "free time," then you would be more motivated to attain a sales quota at work if your boss offered you a day off rather than a bonus. For the person who values wealth, the bonus would be a more motivating reward. Therefore, it is vitally important to understand what you (or others) value most in life.

---Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge.

---Plato

Life Satisfaction Rating

Place a number between 1 and 10 next to each area of your life, with 10 being the most satisfied and happy. Not all categories will apply to you. Feel free to add more categories that may fit for you. Repeat this rating every few months to see if your life is improving.

Date

Love Relationships:

Friends/Social:

Family:

Physical Health/Appearance:

Emotional/Mental Health:

Spiritual Health/Peace:

Career:

Finances:

Home/Living Space:

Hobbies/Recreation:

Education/Learning:

Productivity/Creativity:

Other:

---The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.

---Oprah Winfrey