The word success is widely used in today’s world and it is something that is sought after by many people. People from all backgrounds and walks of life are driven to attain success. And through the media and other means, we are constantly exposed to people who are successful in certain areas.
Recent creations such as Twitter and Facebook have allowed people to get closer to public figures who have achieved success. So the divide between the two, has now become a lot smaller.
These public figures are typically the ones that society defines as successful; from musicians, to actors and athletes for instance. Here we have people who often have; money, fame, ability and society’s version of what is attractive. And due to the magnitude and the sheer repetition of this exposure; it is inevitable that it is going to influence what people will associate as success.
On the Google website success is described as - 1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose. 2. The attainment of popularity or profit. So with profit aside, according to this description; success is something that one gets through following their own vision or by doing what will lead to approval from others.
This would mean then, that there are two types of success. Either one listens to themselves and seeks to fulfil their own definition of success or they can choose to go after what society classes as successful.
While there are two clear extremes here, it is also possible for one to choose both options, but this will of course depend on if their inner truth or vision matches up with what society values.
One may have a great desire to be a famous actor or musician so that they can express themselves to as many people as possible. And as there is a general internal and external match occurring; this is likely to create a lot less stress for them.
For another it may be that what they value within is generally not valued by society. This means that the same amount of approval is unlikely to be involved. And conflict can then arise between the inner and the outer world.
There is also the potential for one to have no awareness of what really matters to them and this can mean that pleasing others and going after what society defines as successful will be normal.
It might be that they will suffer because they are not doing what is right for them, but this can also depend on how aware one is. If one is completely cut off from their own self, then this pain may well be minimal and kept out of conscious awareness.
So let’s say that one takes the option of doing what is generally classed as success in the eyes of others. Here one jumps through all the different types of hoops that society and certain authority figures have laid out.
To the degree that one looks for approval from others is often a reflection of how well they approve of themselves. If one doesn’t approve of themselves, this will then be dealt with by looking for others to regulate this sense of inner disapproval.
And while in the short term this may well be a fairly useful solution and lead to one feeling more at ease within; it is likely to become an addiction. Through the inner disapproval still existing, one may need this approval to be constant and to increase.
As one becomes used to the approval, it may well start to lessen in its impact and so more will be required to regulate the conflict within. And if this approval is not achieved then all kinds of distress is likely to occur.
For people that seek success to gain approval from others, they are typically gaining fulfilment through approval. But as I have described above, this is unlikely to lead to deep or lasting fulfilment. What they are doing is not necessarily fulfilling in and of itself.
People who are doing what is in line with their own purpose are usually being fulfilled through the act itself. They may not get as much approval as they would if they followed what is often defined as success, but they are being fulfilled from the inside.
So people who have a higher need for approval can then be more vulnerable to the success that is based on popularity as opposed to self fulfilment. A childhood where one was only approved of when they did what their caregivers wanted or who had caregivers that ignored their inner needs, can be at a greater risk to this.
However, some people still follow their own truth regardless of if they have a high need for approval. But if one has not had their basic need met of being approved, their attention will be absorbed by this need.
And what really matters will then have very little chance of being consciously known and expressed.
What is it?
Success is clearly not black and white then. And this is because what makes one person happy is not always the same as what makes another person happy. Success can be marked by external things such as grades, awards and approval, but real success is marked by how one feels on the inside about what they are doing and have done.
And while people can give advice and suggestions on what one can do to be happy; the only person who can truly answer these questions is oneself.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.