Recently, I was having a conversation with a sister from a neighbouring African country. We were talking about life in America, its hurdles, comfort and convenience. So I popped the question as to what being successful meant to her. Her response was very thought-provoking and it shaped my perspective about how diverse our dreams, aspirations and the meaning of success is to each individual, regardless of the colour on our skins.
She started with “Well, I’d feel successful if I had a good job, a house and good credit.” I was dumbfounded, not just by the simplicity of her dreams, but because I presently have all the things she listed but in all honesty, I don’t feel successful. Her definition of success is unique to her. While mine may have some of the components of her wish, I wouldn’t feel successful if I don’t have the privilege to travel throughout Africa, backpack to many regions in Europe and some parts of Southeast and West Asia, do nothing but relax, surrounded by nature while I write about my experiences. At this time, it seems like a dream and unattainable, but it is achievable with time, determination and most importantly, working towards it.
The reason we work for money or have money work for us is to afford a certain lifestyle. Unfortunately, we seem to live in times when some people can kill to live and maintain a certain lifestyle, one where they buy the most expensive houses, cars and luxury consumer products at the snap of a finger. A life of enjoyment and convenience without recording a day of work. Fortunately, the essence of life isn’t contingent on what we have or don’t have. The true essence of our lives rests on our contributions to humanity and how meaningful our lives become as we move forward in life.
If you really take out time to reflect, you’ll realise that the things that truly matter in life aren’t material things at all. Being successful doesn’t necessarily mean you have to amass wealth, pursue it with your life or the lives of others. You don’t have to chase wealth, it comes naturally to you when you focus on adding or creating the needed value for the society you find yourself in.
If you desire to be successful, you must also be definitive about what success really means to you. If you choose to be defined by what others say is success, you will be depriving yourself from living a life of fulfilment and contentment. If you just want to have a little bungalow with a garden in it, then it’s all good. If a Mercedes Benz is what will make you feel successful, then go for it. Find what value you can give in exchange for money so you can afford the luxury you want. Your talents, education and experiences are some of the things you could trade for money.
The cost of success is not expensive if you comprehend what it’ll take to attain your own level of success. You can be a successful photographer, stylist or mason, as long as that is what your heart desires. There’s a sense of fulfilment that comes with successfully implementing what you were created to do.
We must also note that nothing of value magically appears. If it does, it’s a mirage – it wouldn’t last and you’ll pay for it with your life or whatever remains of it. Our ability to desire material things is completely natural. So does our capability to get to work, earn the funds to purchase them outright. In the absence of money, we can tame our urges and impulses to acquire things beyond our reach.
Building a life you are proud to live begins with knowing what your heart yearns for and ends with how you can attain it legitimately to live a full and a meaningful life.
I’ll leave you with this quote by Anne Sweeney: “Define success by your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you are proud to live.”
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