“Those are a success who have lived well, laughed often, loved much, who have gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of children; who have filled their niche and
accomplished their task; who leave the world better than they found it, whether by a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of the earth's beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best they had.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I found a copy of this quote by Emerson in the guest room at my cousin Sandy's house. It's a good reminder to me—to all of us—of the yardstick by which success is truly measured. Not the size of the bank account, or the size of the house, or the ability to be well-dressed and fashionable, but the size of the heart, the soulfulness of the life. Sometimes, we lose track of that. When we say someone is “successful” we typically mean they've made a lot of money. I know, and I'll bet you do, too, people who have made a lot of money, and become selfish and grandiose in the process. Their yardstick is an external one—how do I measure up compared to my neighbor? Also, I know people who've made a lot of money, and remained kind and generous all their lives. I'm sure you do, too. Which one do you think of as successful?
I know people whose lives are not oriented around money or possessions at all; who simply get up every day and go to work. They are unconcerned with living lavishly, dressing well, being impressive. Their lives are simply lived out through the work they do. They consider themselves successful if they accomplish what they set out to do—whether money is involved, or not. Their yardstick is an internal one: Have I done my best today? Did I make a difference?
Finally, I know folks who can not “do” at all; who are confined in their movements by disability or disease. The gym where I work out is a training site for paralympic athletes. There is a rugby team practicing many days when I am walking in the field house—most of them have to be physically placed into their chairs, and some even require oxygen. Some of the chairs are operated by a little toggle switch on the arm. But, they get on that floor, and play their hearts out. There is no sense of “poor me” or “I can't do this” about them. In my eyes, they are towers of courage, and great examples of the indomitable human spirit. I consider that successful.
Only you can decide what it means to be successful. Whether your yardstick is external, or internal, it is your yardstick, and no one else's. How do you measure success?
In the Spirit,