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“Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success.” Richard Carlson

If you Google “success definitions,” you’ll find about 1,790,000,000 links.  “Success in life?” 1,840,000,000 results. No wonder we’re often confused, and frustrated by what constitutes success.

Folks also love success quotes. Google has 90,500,000 results to ponder. Here are a few:

  • “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” Bob Dylan
  • “Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.” Albert Einstein
  •  “Just as the tumultuous chaos of a thunderstorm brings a nurturing rain that allows life to flourish, so too in human affairs times of advancement are preceded by times of disorder. Success comes to those who can weather the storm.I Ching No. 3
  • “The successful man is the average man, focused.” Anonymous
  •  “Getting what you go after is success; but liking it while you are getting it is happiness.” Anonymous

So, what do you think these quotes have in common?

For one thing, what they have in common is that they’re all someone’s else’s idea of success.

Many folks love success quotes – they’re cool, neat, pithy, catching and the like. However, often they don’t “work” because the folks who love to quote them most often never personalize “success” – that is, success remains a “nice idea” but at 9:00 Monday morning they’re caught in their own confusion, self-doubt and mis-perception – striving to experience “success” by mimicking another’s dream idea of success, lost at the 50,000-foot level.

In my experience, the most important tool that supports experiencing true and real success is reflection – a deep contemplation which many are unable or willing to undertake. Thus, frustrated, many experience life as consistent indecision and dis-harmony as there’s no alignment between what they say, feel, think and do when it comes to “success.” Success remains a notion that takes up real estate in the smallest of molecules in their brain. Never to see the light of day – 9:00 Monday morning day.

On the other hand, others define success simply as “results.”  But, getting results without discovering something about one’s self in the process often leads to an unhappy and “un-success-ful” life in the short or long term. Why? “Doing” in and of itself, without be-ing, is not a solid formula for success. The “successful” Bernie Ebbers of Enron, or the Bernie Madoffs of the hedge fund and banking world are testimonials to this type of “success.”

Many folks actually do create results (“success?”), often without personal growth – yet wonder why they don’t feel better, alive, fulfilled – admitting, as Deepak Chopra writes, they don’t experience “good health, energy or enthusiasm for life, fulfilling relationships, creative freedom, emotional and psychological stability, a sense of well-being, or peace of mind.”

The idea of success can be quickly obliterated just as if it was written in the sand – wiped out in a moment by a wave (of uncertainty), a hurricane, health issue, job loss, divorce, accident, old age, bank failure, etc.).

Or, can it?

It depends.

For some folks, success can disappear in an instant; for others, not so, regardless of the circumstances. True success comes with discerning its true and real meaning.

So, there’s “success” and there’s “success.” Are the rich successful? What about the starving artist? The person in the corner office on the 52nd floor? The person in the mail room in the basement? You? Me?

Being successful requires a conscious exploration of what success means to you – creating your own quote. Until and unless you take the time to define success for yourself, there’s a  good chance someone else is defining success for you. Often a self-limiting and self-defeating experience.

So, if you lack you own success quotation, perhaps today is the ideal time to begin to create your own.

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Do you consider yourself successful? What criteria are you using?  How do you measure it?
  • Are the standards you use to define success, your own, or are they standards you “were given?
  • Are you ever jealous or envious of others’ success?
  • Do you ever feel empty, unhappy, or unfulfilled even though you are a success? If so, why do you think that’s so?
  • How do you define “rich”? “Wealthy?”
  • Is your self-worth defined by your net worth?
  • How much of your life is spent doing what you think you “should do” as opposed to doing what you “want to do?”
  • Do you find meaning, fulfillment and happiness in your life at work, at home, at play and in relationship?
  • Do you plan your vacations with more care, attention and detail than you plan your life?
  • Do you ever fear success?
  • Do you have true and real fun in your life? If not, why not?
  • Do you learn from your mistakes?
  • How did you come to be a “success?”
  • How did you learn about success as you were growing up?
  • Are you ever bothered by persistent thoughts of not “being good enough?” When did you first notice these thoughts? How do you deal with them?
  • Do you have models for success? Who are they? How did you decide to use them as your models?
  • Do you think successful people are happy or happy people are successful? How so?

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year.” – John Foster Dulles

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.” Vincent Van Gogh

(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, or pvajda(at)

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.