I’ve thought a lot about success lately, and what that concept really means to me. There are zillions of quotes about success and a greater number of opinions about what it means to have lived a successful life, but so many of these seem to be focused on achieving something that the world can see and applaud, or a sort of summing up of a person’s life, weighing it, then stamping it with the appropriate label: Success, Failure, Mediocre, Uneventful . And yet, what I have come to see is that success is an in the moment, and very private, thing.
Everyone has been a success at something, in some moment, in their lives, and who am I to judge anyone’s life as a success or failure? I can’t possibly have known even the tiniest fraction of what they thought or did in their life: the word that they spoke to someone and changed that person’s life, the time they stopped their car and held up traffic so a turtle could cross the road, the sleepless nights that they stayed up with a sick child, quietly rocking and soothing them to sleep. The apple pie they brought to a sick friend, the dollar that they gave to someone on the street, even though it was their last dollar. All of the quiet little heroic acts. The quiet successes.
Since I cannot really know if anyone is a success or not, I’ve made a decision to call everyone’s life a success, and when I think about them, I intend to look for their successes instead of where I think they’ve come up short.
I spent much of my life comparing myself to others, and when I felt less-than, I (consciously and unconsciously) looked for what they were doing wrong, in an attempt to bolster my own sense of self, and not come up so short in my own mind. One day I realized how insane this was. “If we are all connected, and I am looking for the failure in others, won’t I just find more of that in myself?”, was the question that came to my mind and stopped me in my tracks. It was so obviously true. I wondered how I had missed it for so many years. We get what we are looking for.
What also surprised me was how quickly this turned around (my feelings about myself) when I started looking for other people’s successes. Success is mine,and yours, now. It is ours when we think a better thought. It is ours when we look for it.