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Success: the Path to Misery or Happiness?
What Does Success Mean to You?

Or let me say it this way: how would you measure your success?

Is it by how much you earn?  How many cars you have?  Or by how many holidays you have per year?  

Modernity now dictates that often it’s by how many Instagram followers one has. 

What do all of these measurements have in common? (enough of the rhetorical questions now I promise)

What they have in common is the fact that they are all quantifiable.  Things you can ‘weigh’ up and measure.

Yet true success can’t be measured.

You might say that isn’t always the case though.  Take a long marriage - it is quantifiable and shows a degree of success.  

But if I know two people who have been married for 45 years, do I assume that their marriage is a success?  Not really.  I mean they could have been at each-other’s throats for the majority of that time and be almost entirely lacking when it comes to intimacy, sex, trust and a library of everlasting memories created together.

Sign of the Times

This precondition to success comes from our society and it’s not slowing down either.  What constitutes ‘something being successful’ is usually determined by how many zeroes you can add on or take away from the figure depending on the circumstance.

Like binary coding for computers, the human experience is being reduced to ones and zeroes.

There’s a reason why common phrases hold a degree of power because there is substantial truth within their simplicity.  Take the phrase ‘priceless’ which we assign to things that go beyond value in terms of a monetary framework.

You know that feeling when you're forcibly stopped in your tracks in awe by some spectacular view or you’ve just lived out an experience that will probably pass by your awareness as you slip from this life into peaceful sleep?

In our modern times these ‘valuables’ are usually substituted for yet more new luxury apartments overtaking the skyline in place of the view or more work hours added-on to life rather than work hours being substituted from the day to actually experience life.  

All under the illusion of what success is.

That’s Just the Way it is

Now it’s not to say that these ways of processing success are ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, it’s just about reframing, or rather, opening up their potential.  More money, more houses and more cakes are all fine and well but they in themselves will not make you happy and if you don’t feel happy then you definitely won’t feel that any part of your life is a success.

So what we need to do is stop divorcing, separating these quantifiable things from their meaning.

As in, if I have 10 holidays a year so what?  If I have 10 holidays a year with my beloved then what?  One is absent of meaning, one is full of meaning.

See, meaning and success go hand-in-hand.  

It’s why the true artist doesn’t care about record sales as long as she touches people and the poet doesn’t strive to be the next Tolkien as long as his words penetrate the heart of the reader irrespective of whether that’s one reader or 1 million.   

Measure the Meaning

To allow our success to be fulfilling and to ensure that our success does actually equal happiness then we just need to move forward - with whatever tasks we are undertaking, whatever work we are doing, whatever relationship we are working on - with the promise that whatever we measure, whatever we count that it is worthwhile.  

Not because it alone looks good on a tally chart but because it will bring along with it a certain quality and a fuller meaning of how success is about joy, contentment and love.  

If our successes aren’t manifesting in those ways then it’s time to redefine why we strive for success in the first place.

Life & Death 3,000,000 Years Ago.

We can learn so so much from the past.  The future is unknown and that's beautiful.  But to be honest, with the Western world in turmoil I think we need to look at life for our ancestors, learn from their failures, lessons, their development, their biological, social, cognitive markers and so forth.  This is a fascinating little 15 minute video and it's beautiful to step back.  Not only in the figurative sense of time but to step back and remember we are tiny tiny kink on one very long chain.
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