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Monday, March 25, 2013

Motivational Mondays: Caution: Success May Be A Four Letter Word

Warning: Success May Not Be What You Expect

Thought for the Day: Success is a word I intentionally avoided in my book. Although many motivational books encourage readers to strive for success, and it may attract readers & sell books, I believe it is a mistake to do so.  Psychologically, it may predispose successful people (& those dear to them) to feel like failures. Read on to see how what most people see as a key to happiness may actually be a four letter word, "Succ," which may lead to negative feelings & disappointment. What does success mean to you? Has it helped or hindered you? I hope this post makes you reassess your opinions about what you strive for & how you evaluate your"success." defines the noun "success" as: 1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; & 2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like. It can also be used as an adjective such as: "a successful  performance or achievement: The play was an instant success; Or it can be used to describe a person or a thing that is successful: She was a great success on the talk show. " 

By definition, success has the potential to make people feel unsuccessful. We are all so conditioned to see success as a goal to strive for that you may have missed three potential pitfalls in the definition of success. The first word in the above definition that sets one up to feel like a failure is "termination." Success is defined by an ending point. Once you have achieved success, where do you go? When you achieve "success" will you feel it is enough or will you constantly keep trying to prove to yourself & others that you have arrived & are successful. 

The second danger sign in the above definition is the word, "instant," which often leads to a let down. All too often, disappointment follows when quickly achieved success does not repeat itself in subsequent endeavors. In addition, unrealistic expectations for instant success can discourage people from continuing to work at accomplishing their goals.

A third hidden hazard in the above definition is the use of the word successful to define a person. What does it mean to define yourself or be seen by others in terms of wealth, position & honors? Possessions do not define our worth as human beings. On the one hand, there are "successful" people who use their wealth & position to take advantage of others or for selfish endeavors, while on the other hand there are those with no outward signs of success who give generously of their time and care for those in need. Many of those who have achieved "success" have suffered from feeling unfulfilled, doubting their abilities. 

Sadly, many famous successful people have suffered from drug & alcohol abuse & depression. The suicides of Marilyn Monroe, Curt Kobain & drug overdoses of Janis Joplin, John Belushi, Jimi Hendrix, & Jim Morrison are sad testimonies to the fact that what most people see as success does not always bring happiness. The tragic suicides of the children of successful people like Art Linkletter, Gregory Peck, Mary Tyler Moore, Paul Newman, & Judy Collins raise questions about parenting & success. Being financially successful & raising children to become productive responsible adults is a challenge. 

If success is a four letter word, what should we be striving for in life? Have you felt frustrated in your quest for success? What has helped you? I'd like to hear from you & will give you some of my alternatives to the race for success that i believe will make a difference in next week's Motivational Monday's post.

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