Defining Success

There is a small hill in Idaho Falls that looks out across the valley and down on its inhabitants. The land up there is arid and unusable. There are snakes, and every summer, the land is approached by wildfires. The closest living tree happens to be with the common folk at the bottom of the hill. This hill is where you’ll find the Idaho Falls elite. The joke around here is that when a person becomes successful, they move out of the valley and up on the hill. These people measure there success by their perch upon this hill.

Why is it that we are so ingrained with measuring success by material objects? Successful people go their whole lives building their wealth, but are they ever truly happy? Is their family happy? What about the men and women working as janitors, hospitality, or construction? These men and women knowingly forgo opportunities of higher salaries in favor of happiness in the moment. Maybe these people define success a little differently than the societal definition, but these people may be more content in their lives and more happier than ourselves. So, at what point do we choose happiness over success?

During this long Memorial Day weekend, I spent much of my time outside working on my 0.44 acre lot in the valley near the small hill. As I finished washing my new camp trailer, I thought to myself “If this was all I achieved in this world, I would be content.” I have everything that I need to live a happy life. My wife and children have everything they need; my dogs and chickens want for nothing. I have all the things in this world that make me happy contained within my 0.44 acre lot–and it has trees, lots of them.

I spent the last nine years building my career and judging others harshly based on my own definition of success. I forced this definition on my own employees and judged them accordingly. Thankfully, my definition is evolving. After all, not every one wants to live on the hill; some are content living in the valley– and that’s okay. I believe that success and happiness go hand-in-hand. Sometimes they can act as inverses of each other, but for great, successful people, success and happiness can coexist.

Learning about Buddhism this year really helped me evaluate my own definition of success. I am at a point in my life where I have realized that my work is not all that I have to give to this world. I have so much that I want to work on for myself. I have so much I would like to do for my wife and children. How someone makes a living should be secondary to tertiary to the important issues in our lives. After all, what is life without self or family?

How do you define your success? And, are you happy with your outcome?

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