How do You Measure Success?

Paul and I spent the New Years weekend with my friend Linda, her sister Adele, her son David, and his daughters, Kaitlin and Bralin. We had a loving and fun time playing board games, and eating and visiting. On New Years morning Adele and I were doing dishes and  talking about weight and appearances. We were on the same page as far as being tired of the emphasis put on women’s appearance, and how society says we’re supposed to look.

As we discussed thinness, clothes, and hair, I found myself remembering how important appearances were to my family. The message was, and still is to a certain extent, that success is judged by external qualities. If a person had a good job, a nice car, was thin and wore nice clothes, had a good education, was wealthy, and had a lot of stuff, they were considered successful. Not too long ago, my mother was talking about a couple of my cousins’ children. In describing  them, she said one had a big job as a head coach, and the other was a doctor who had married a doctor. She remarked how successful these two boys were.

 I said, “Wait a minute. How do you know they’re successful?”
Her response, “Because they have college degrees and big jobs.”
Stymied, I asked, “So, does that make them successful?”
“Why of course. They have everything they want.”

I realize how easy it is to equate success with what the external looks like. This culture prizes youth, thinness, wealth, education, nice houses, pretty cars, and lots of stuff. Having these things can be a measure of success, but it’s limited to what we have and what we look like, and has nothing to do with who we are. When we get caught up in the trappings of societal norms, and what money can buy, we can lose sight of what’s really valuable, like compassion, joy, contentment, self-love, quietness, contemplation, meditation, and kindness.

I’m not saying my cousins’ children are not successful, because they may be wildly so. However, I use an internal barometer to measure the level of success that allows me to be at peace in the midst of it all.  If you have it all but are not happy in life, I would  think that what you had would not be a true measure of success.  You might be successful by the world’s standards, and if that’s what matters, then I bless you and wish you well. But, for those who are wanting more than what the world offers, there can be other yardsticks for success.  I am by no means the be-all, know-it-all, or end-all about life and what matters. I can only speak from my heart and my truth. So, when I’m considering the measure of success, I ask these questions.  

Do I like and appreciate the fullness of who I am?
 Can I go with the flow of life, instead of fighting what’s present?
Do I practice self-care and compassion for creation?
Am I involved in humanity and in making a difference on the planet?
These are just a few signposts that I believe measure true success in life.

My brother was telling me the other day about one of his good friends who had committed suicide. He could not understand why this man would not want to live. He told me the man had everything: money, personal possessions, freedom, and good health. I said, “Yes, but that doesn’t mean he had peace of mind.” We can have it all externally and be unhappy, because we have to live with self. When I look in the mirror I see me, I take myself to bed, to work, on trips, and out to play. I may change locations, jobs,and/or relationships, but no matter, I’m  still there. I can’t get rid of who I am, and I know within when I am content living with me. There is nothing on earth that can take the place of self-love and acceptance for life as it is, and when I have that I believe I am successful.

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the
affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics and endure
the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and
sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived —
This is to have succeeded.

Now that you know what Ralph Waldo Emerson and I use to measure success, I’d be interested in your idea of what it means to be successful? Won’t you please take a few minutes and complete this poll? I’ll post the results next week. 


About brendamarroy

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17 Responses to How do You Measure Success?

  1. jakesprinter says:

    By Effort and Great Timing 🙂

  2. gingerclub says:

    Hi Brenda,

    Sorry, I am late. I just voted as well. Interesting topic indeed. I agree with you that external possessions are not really a measure for success. To strive for internal fulfillment and happiness is certainly something more valuable to strive for. However, is this it? Is this enough? I am convinced that it is desirable and a good thing to attain, but only as a means to do something, to contribute. To contribute humanity, compassion, love, something to make this world a better place, a positive book, blog :-), planting trees, fighting for a good cause and justice. One can only do this with a positive outlook on life, but I would measure success exactly in taking the good, which one has cultivated for oneself and spread it out into the world:-)
    Nice reading..



    • brendamarroy says:

      Hi Ginger, Thanks for your response to my blog. I agree with all the things you listed: all fulfilling and aiding in adding to the betterment of humanity. Thank you for listing them all, as a good reminder of what we can do to contribute.

      I’ve missed your blood pressure blog. Are you taking a break from writing?

  3. Greetings, Brenda! I so agree with you. At one time, I was thought to “have it all” – big house, cars, boat, intelligent children, husband with a great job, etc. – however, no one lived in my shoes. They didn’t see the constant belittling, berating. They were not witness to the countless times I cried myself to sleep wondering why I wasn’t good enough. When I finally left my marriage of almost 30 years, many people were shocked and angry at me. I, on the other hand, felt a peace and calm that I had not felt in my entire life.

    Today, I have a tiny house, on a tiny plot of land. I wear lots of second hand clothes because I have been underemployed for over 2 years. Am I happy? You bet! I have the love of my life beside me, our precious little cat, Goldie and a life where we support each other with kindness, gentleness, tenderness and above all love.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Linda

    • brendamarroy says:

      I hear you loud and clear Linda. I’ve been there and done that also. I am so glad that you took the steps necessary to take care of yourself and speak to the world how worthwhile you knew you were.

      You will probably relate to my blog this week because it’s about being willing to leave what’s familiar, but does not work, and the price we sometimes have to pay for leaving the dance. I applaud you and I thank you for your kind and supportive comment. Brenda

  4. Success: The achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.
    : A favourable outcome of something attempted.

    I needed to get clear about the meaning of the word success, before entering into this discussion.

    Most of us need to consider our intention/ and consider what we are willing to pay for success.
    Pay in terms of stress, health, integrity, wear and tear on relationships etc. These are some of the potholes to consider.
    Going for it: I feel discovering your talent and using your talents and sharing and teaching what you are talented in, is a worthy pursuit. Acts of kindness and being a lover is something to achieve, as well as befriending the self. Ripple effects from these pursuits are bound to be favourable. I love planning a fun activity for a child. If there is love and joy in the mix, the outcomes will take care of themselves.

  5. Betsy says:

    When I was much younger, I measured success by the toys I had. Those toys turned into “stuff” years later, some of which I still drag around. When I wasn’t finding happiness and satisfaction with my collection of stuff, I returned to Zen meditation and began rereading the works of the Dalai Lama. Now, I carry around more pounds than I like, have divested myself of some, but not all, of the stuff, and have left high-maintenance people behind. And I am happy in my skin. (Well, I’d like to have a little less skin…) It’s all about being comfortable with who you are. If not, it’s never too late to get started being happy with who you are.

    • brendamarroy says:

      Thanks Betsy. I too carry more weight today than I did before menopause, but then who has the right to say what’s too much.
      Being comfortable with self is high on my list of priorities also.
      By the way, I think you’re beautiful and would never even assume that you are carrying more pounds than you should. You look great.

  6. I used to be guilty of equating success with education and jobs, but now that I’m in the process of losing everything because of economic woes, I’m starting to realize how unimportant material things are. Anything that can be lost (which is everything I own) can’t truly be valuable.

    • Betsy says:

      Amberr, I’m so sorry you got caught in the financial crisis. I find your lesson very uplifting, thought. Yes, if you can lose a “thing,” it’s not all that valuable. Be strong and you wlll get through this.

    • brendamarroy says:

      Hi Amberr,
      I hear what you’re saying and I’m on the same page as you. When my husband was unemployed, we had to come to that place of knowing that anything that we lost was not of value. It may have had monetary value, but ultimately that doesn’t equate with “soul success.” When we can fit comfortably in our skin, and be okay with what is, we have found true value in life. I applaud you for your courage and your insight. Blessings to you.

  7. Tameko says:

    Brenda, this message is absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing. Some times I have conversations with other women about the constant focus society has on how women should look and about all the external ‘signs’ of success. What I’ve noticed, particularly for those of us on a spiritual inner journey, we tend to battle with those old beliefs of what is considered success. But when is it ever enough? I’ve seen people and have been that person with the nice job, a pretty decent education, nice car, and a comfortable home, but still walked around complaining that all of it wasn’t enough…there must be MORE to life, right? Perhaps this is why so many people over the past few years have lost quite a bit – whether voluntarily or involuntarily – to help us put things back into perspective. And…I’d like to add that I pray that all women and especially young girls will develop self-love and self-acceptance. I know I’m working on all that for myself and have been since I turned 30 in 2002. Blessings!

    • brendamarroy says:

      Hi Tameko,
      Thanks for your response. I’m actually growing weary of the pressures put on women in our society. And, I’m sad about all the young girls and women who are buying into it. Self-love and acceptance seem to not have as much value as thinness, globe-shaped breasts, hair that is not gray, a face that is not wrinkled, and “looking sexy” (goddess help us for buying this one.)

  8. Roseann T. Kriebel says:

    That is essential wisdom so many folks will never comprehend.

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