Children are often the greatest source of wisdom. Last week one of the junior members of our clan revealed that he had accomplished a ‘great success.’
I expected to hear a tale of tree-climbing glory, football accuracy or even a scéal about wrestling the dog to the floor – instead, the little man calmly revealed he had figured out that the amount of steps he would take in his life would carry him around the planet five times.
The fact that he figured this out, or read it, or googled it might not be earthshattering but throw in the knowledge that he’s just six-years-old and his ‘success’ becomes more impressive.
The encounter with my nephew left a smile on my face but it also set me thinking about the ways we view success. Ruaidhri was excited about his scientific breakthrough, his brother Iarlaith would be more enthused if he found a puddle to jump in while, Conal, the youngest of the three musketeers, rates success on the amount of biscuits he can find in his grandmother’s cupboard.
You see, success means different things to different people at different phases of life. Take this scribe’s personal success-gauge as an example. At the moment, success is measured in my ability to run ever-longer distances as I try to get fitter. Last year, success meant finding clothes that actually covered my body, as I wasn’t happy with my weight.
Before that, success was winning football matches or making enough money to survive or having a warm home. Prior to that, my success-wheel revolved around babies and toddlers, Santa, the Tooth Fairy and sleeping through the night. Prior to that, success was gauged on girls, exams, school football and friendships.
Life has a wonderful way of changing our vision of success. I spoke to a young lady today who told me a successful day for her is one where she’s not overcome by sadness - a day when she feels happiness in the soul. A friend of mine measures success on whether he can sleep through the night without waking up worried about the pressures of life, while another sees success as the amount of profit his company makes in a month.
We all have different measuring tapes when it comes to success. Mayo football stars Donal Vaughan and Aidan O’Shea may only see an All-Ireland medal as success while footballers in Waterford, Antrim and many other counties see sporting success in a totally different light.
Circumstances have a huge bearing on what the individual measure of success actually is. To some, success is standing unaided, to others it’s running a marathon, or asking a girl to dance or having the courage to tell someone they’re worried, fearful, stressed, gay, lonely or in need of help.
So, remember, success is a personal barometer of contentment. Strive for the success that makes you happy and don’t measure success by someone else’s standards.
Meanwhile, the nephew and I are setting off for a bit of a stroll around the planet.
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