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N in azaleas

How do you measure success?

In grad school, one of my profs had spent time with the Lakota in Oklahoma. To them, she said, the measure of success was not money, or prestige, or power, but whether one was a good Lakota, whether one followed the traditions well.

Watching _Julia and Julie_ last night, it seemed that Julie measured success by whether she was published and whether she was able to finish something. Cooking her way through _Mastering the Art of French Cooking_ accomplished both.

My husband equates success with achieving one's goals. His appear to have been related to library work, marrying me, and having children, so he's feeling pretty cheerful these days. (When he gets enough sleep).

I think I'm still acknowledging what success is. I think that I believe it has to do with being in good physical shape, good fiscal shape, and with keeping one's mind sharp through continuing intellectual development. I do not seem to be thinking having a spouse, or having children, or a house, or even emotional intelligence are in the tally.

What do you think makes a person successful?


I think it's about being comfy and proud in your own skin. Sure, I have a job right now that makes good/great money, a family, all that. But what makes me feel successful is I love what I do... I'd do it for half the pay. More importantly, I love who I am. I'd change details, sure, but the big picture is that I have confidence in myself and where I am headed.
Being successful means achieving a relatively large amount of what one aims for and/or desires.

That being said, I generally think of others as successful if they are happy or have clearly achieved something challenging, such as great riches and/or acclaim.

I tend to admire those people who achieve things that I think are worthwhile, which frankly includes riches, but is first and foremost happiness, and also includes such things as intellectual capability, emotional awareness and depth, and a positive impact on the world.
Interesting question. I shall commence to ramble :)

At first glance, I thought that success could be measured against what you were trying to achieve. This doesn't necessarily equate to finance or status - some of the people I admire most are people who set out to do something hard that doesn't come with a lot of societal glamour or financial reward. You know, like teachers and librarians and parents.

That said, there's something a little odd about this definition because when you finish a goal, there's always another to look for. So is there a point where you can say you're a success and that's a title that should stick for life no matter what else you do? I find that a little hard to swallow.

One thing that seems to undermine success is when the goals you set (whether you achieve them or not) aren't really compatible with what will make you happy. So for example, I feel more successful about developing my current career than I did about developing a career as a doctor - because this time, I did a much better job choosing something that is compatible with who I am.

So what makes me feel successful?
First, that I identified a set of goals which were congruent with my values, meaningful to me, and achievable.
Second, that I feel that I have made or am continuing to make reasonable progress towards the attainment of those goals.
Third, that I have not sold out myself or the people I care about in that process.

Ultimately, being surrounded by friends - people I admire and love - and feeling that they admire and love me in return... that makes me feel extraordinarily successful.

OK, I will stop rambling now!
What makes me feel successful is little things. When a student has a "lightbulb" moment, or achieves a 6 on an essay when her previous best had been a 3, or when Katherine says that she wants to do the puzzle of Asia again, or when Eric responds to a question in Latin instead of English, I feel like I've done my job(s) right.

I should probably be thinking more big picture, but I guess that's not where I am in my life. Teachers very rarely get the classic rewards for success, like money, fame, etc., so it's a good think I don't measure my success that way! I'll take my "I love you, Mommy"s and "Thanks for being such a great teacher"s and smile. : )
I have always told myself that success is leaving the world a better place than I found it. I'm not sure I'm living my life that way, though, so I may be deluding myself.
N in azaleas

September 2009

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