Beyond Success

One of my core beliefs  is that people want to succeed. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, “Today I’m going to see how many ways I can fail… or make my life miserable.” The desire to succeed is innate in each of us.

The question is, what is success? Society has taught us that success has to do with the tangible and observable—the size of our bank account, the house we live in, car we drive, personal appearance, popularity, degrees, status, fame, achievements, etc. And, in truth, these are fair measures of success.

The problem arises when we live from the belief that “more is better.” This belief has been conditioned into most of us. I recall when I first graduated from college and opened a private practice. I thought I would have reached success and be happy when I was making around $3,000 a month. Well, that didn’t last long. Soon it was $4,000, then $5,000. It wasn’t too many years and I achieved that level of financial success. My standard then became a six figure income. And on and on.

The point is not that there is anything wrong with setting and striving to achieve a financial (or any tangible) goal. The problem occurs when we believe that achieving such a goal will automatically bring fulfillment, a sense of meaning and contentment.

The inherent and subtle danger when living from “more is better” is that we are never satisfied. We find ourselves living from a scarcity mentality always comparing our lot in life to others and forever aware of what we lack rather than appreciating the blessings and goodness of life.

Do you know people who seem to “have it all” and are not content? People who have achieved incredible levels of wealth, fame, power and yet are unhappy human beings? (Lots of celebrities, both living and deceased, come quickly to my mind.)

Let’s not give up on a success mentality. It is okay to set goals and strive for more, better, and different. But let’s also be clear that achieving “external” success does not automatically bring inner fulfillment—peace of mind, contentment, and joy. That is living from the “outside in.”

This reminds me of a Ziggy cartoon from a number of years back. Ziggy is seated on a park bench, saying, “I’m thankful that somewhere along the way, I stopped waiting for the things I wanted. I gave up waiting and just went on living. I did all the little things that I enjoy. I figured that if I couldn’t be happy with what I got, that I would never be happy. Then a funny thing happened. Once I accepted being content with what I had, I started to get the things that I always wanted, like contentment and happiness.”

I believe that what we want most is already available to us, here and now. Contentment is not a place I “get to” but “come from” as I embrace my life as it is and take full responsibility for my inner experience.


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

One response to “Beyond Success”

  1. Deborah F says:

    I was trying to find a copy of the Ziggy quote you mentioned in your Beyond success article Nov 30, 2010. I have had this cartoon from 11-22 year unknown in my home since I first read it. It is taped and tattered but, still is the mantra of my life. I am very glad another person recognized the importance of this simple little cartoons statement on life.

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