From the philosophy of the ancients, to the self-help books that line bookstore shelves today, there have been many theories on how to find success in life. The plethora of ideas on this topic suggest that no one choice is right for everyone, and the matter is complicated by varying definitions of success. What is success? Is it wealth, happiness, true love, surviving to a ripe old age, attaining enlightenment or a combination of these things? Additionally, people with the best possible life plans and intentions may get thrown off by events outside of their control, and so even those who try sometimes don’t find success in life, as they or others define it.
Given the complex nature of this question, it would be arrogant to offer more than simple guidelines on how to find success in life. These should be viewed as options only. People can either accept or reject them, for truly anyone looking for success must first define what they seek, then choose a path.
An ancient Greek saying is: “Know Thyself,” and it is, perhaps, the underpinning of any successful endeavor. It’s hard to determine what makes success without deciding what determines the self and how that influences definitions of success. People find lots of ways to recognize the self through meditation, therapy, or simply being able to honestly appraise oneself through a variety of other methods. Most people are partially driven by upbringing and genetic makeup, and understanding how these two create influence may help people reach with their minds to determine what would make them successful. “Knowing thyself” is a continual process, a constant reengagement that all people make as they progress through life.
John Donne stated: “No man is an island,” and few people find success in life if they are fully isolated. Making friends or maintaining family relationships, if appropriate, makes sense. Whether this means marrying or having children is an individual decision, but most people will benefit from having others in their life with whom they can share sorrows and joys.
A famous Joseph Campbell quote is: “Follow your bliss,” and this a particularly useful thought when it comes to determining career. Most career counselors recommend that people who want to find success in life should think of careers that most engage and excite them. While thinking about a career, some practical consideration is advised too. At minimum, people should know that they can live on salaries made from a potential career. Exactly how high standard of living must be is individually determined and influences career choices.
Finding success in life doesn’t mean always being happy or successful. This mistaken impression often results in deep unhappiness for people. Successful people fail all the time or through no fault of their own, difficult things happen to them. What may better define a success over a lifetime is not just how people handle themselves when things were easy, but how they acted and learned when things were difficult. Failure can fuel future successes.
The goal of always being happy is fairly elusive. People might instead, no matter how they construct their choices, settle on a goal of a full experience of human life that takes in the riches of its triumphs and failures. Ultimately, it may be hard to weigh success until people reach the end of life, but if they have lived it with self-knowledge, connectedness to others, and passion for their work, there’s a better chance they will say they achieved success in life.