Even Better than Success

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

According to the American Heart Association, the majority of heart attacks occur around nine o’clock on Monday mornings. In a presentation, author Gregg Levoyย noted that this is when many people are going back to work they don’t like, work that doesn’t match their spirits, work that will literally break their hearts. Yet they are driven.

In a recent AgeWave/Harris Interactive survey, results uncovered a renewed focus on what’s important across multiple generations and an optimistic outlook on the possibilities for retirees’ new roles in American life. I recognize this blog is read by a global audience, yet these findings may hold true in other countries.

  1. A majority of respondents (58%) said that loving family and relationships are at the heart of what is held most dearly today – twice as important as being wealthy (33%) and twenty times more important than wielding power and influence (3%).
  2. Three-quarters of all respondents think the U.S. would benefit if retirees were more involved in contributing their valuable skills and experience to our communities.

People want more. They want to contribute more. Yet many are frustrated, disappointed, and needy. And unfortunately, they focus on what is missing or lacking in their lives, careers, or relationships. Getting what they believe they need or want rarely fulfills their sense of lack and longing. And often, they just continue their wanting to something else.

While desired by many, perhaps success isn’t the best thing to aim for. It’s a tricky target because it has so many meanings. How do you define success? Fame? Fortune? Everyone sees it differently. However, there is one thing possibly better than success — and that is significance.

Many people make the mistake of aiming for classic success. Once acquired, they may go on to lead a full and happy life. But success isn’t what allows your conscience to rest easy and it won’t satisfy your hunger for the feeling of accomplishment that significance will. The difference between the two is the application and the effect on those around you.

A successful person may achieve many things but significance is about relationships and significant people serve others. Here are five (of many) characteristics which are consistently practiced by a significant person. How embedded are these traits in you?

  • Intently listens
  • Empathy
  • Heightened awareness
  • Positive persuasion
  • Foresight

To live a life of increased significance, consider these three challenges:

  1. Embrace the idea of delayed gratification now. Don’t live for the credit of what you’ve done. Think legacy potential.
  2. Be open to letting go ofย your comfortable lifestyle or mindset to achieve something greater. (Thus, the opening Campbell quote; one of my favorites.)
  3. This sacrifice is ongoing. You have to believe it and trust that you will reap rewards in due time.

34 thoughts on “Even Better than Success

  1. Eric – thank you for this. How come you read my heart! There’s a John of the Cross quotation that I’ve always tried to espouse: “If anyone asks for me, tell them I’m off on an adventure”. Your posting helps to re-invigorate the excitement of life! Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • To John of the Cross (and others) I admire those people who make choices to leave worlds of material excess and give of themselves to other in greater need. To do this must be equal parts sacrifice and soul nourishing. I can only imagine the fulfillment they experience. I feel increasingly called to such a life. Thanks, Bruce for your kind sharing.

  2. Wow! I will treasure your Campbell quote Eric; and having experienced a heart attack I can vouch for it allowing me the gift of re-evaluating my life and for learning to appreciate what is truly important!
    Thanks also to Bruce who has commented above…I think your quote is equally very moving.
    Thanks both

    • Glad you like the Campbell quote, Bob. It’s been on my business web site for eight years. Some times we don’t see (and appreciate) major life experiences as happening for a purpose – in your case, the gift of re-evaluating your life. It seems you’ve got this fairly well figured out and are enjoying your redirected journey. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. And what if we can’t discern the life that is waiting for us? A continual frustration of mine is not having a clear sense of purpose or direction in my life. At 55, I’m losing hope of ever having a clear purpose or legacy, especially not having a partner or classic business path.

    • I struggled with this for years, Brad. Only recently have I become open to not discerning or knowing and simply accepting that what I am doing and being in the present moment is as it is intended. The frustration and stress in trying to ‘know’ serves little purpose. I don’t have clear direction in my life yet that doesn’t hinder me from living it. Keep in mind that it is our society/cultures that tell us that we need to be crystal clear about what we are doing, where we are going, who we are with or without, etc. Consider, perhaps, being in flow and at peace with the fact that you are alive, breathing, have a roof over your head, food on the table, family and friends, faith (?), etc. There is so much to be grateful for versus worrying and causing dis-ease in you body over what is not presently clear. The operative word in that sentence being “presently.”

      • Thanks Eric, Since this post, I have been living more focused on being grateful and in the moment. Your kind and wise words are reinforcing the idea to let go of needing to know a clear path, instead keep living and moving forward as best I can. Thanks for your encouragement my friend.

    • Indeed it does, Balroop. Yet I like to believe that once we have awareness about success versus significance, we are at choice as to how we want it to go on. We can stay the course and live comfortably among our accumulations or we can invite life shifts that change our trajectory.

      Always good to have you share your perspectives. Thank you.

  4. Another insightful post, that cuts to the heart the importance of ‘sacrifice in the short-term’ before realizing that it wasn’t a sacrifice at all. Your thought says it all: “Embrace the idea of delayed gratification now. Donโ€™t live for the credit of what youโ€™ve done. Think legacy potential.”

    • “…before realizing that it wasn’t a sacrifice at all.” Thanks for reframing that essence. As I reflect on the value of significance, the more I sense how few see the opportunity as sacrifice, let alone figuring out how to (choose and) effect change and defer to the greater ROI.

  5. Loved the quote, and the rest, too.
    I was about to do some tweeting about how today was working for friends.
    And my approach was not something like, “hey! what you got today that made you happy” but more like “hey, what have you given today to make others happy”. This is where the quote made its triumphal entry.

    It is hard for me (maybe others will share..) to think about other people before oneself. Sometimes I say I will take care of others but first I have to take care of myself. Wrong. This is where the trust comes in. If I wait to have all my matters in order it will be way too long before I start caring about people around me.

    And what about me then? Shouldn’t matter. Others will take care of me.

    As the saying goes: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.”

    ..and that is when we will have the life that is waiting for us.


    • I love this, Cedric, “hey, what have you given today to make others happy?” That is what this post is about.

      To your expressed challenge, I am of a different opinion. I believe we must take care of ourselves first. If we end up channeling all of our time, energy, and efforts into helping others we run the risk of depleteing our reserves and having little or nothing left for ourselves. Then we find ourselves in a diminished position when we want to be there for others. I concur that others will be there to assist us and it certainly does not have to be all of one or the other. I’ll share a post that helps to explain this in more detail, as soon as I find it in my archives.

  6. Really good stuff here. And I define ‘success’ by the legacy you leave when you’re gone and the people whose lives have been positively touched by your life. You don’t get to take a dime with you when your time here on Earth is done, and your wallet isn’t going to carry your casket at your funeral. But people whose lives you’ve poured into will. So success to me will be if people in my life see that I’ve shown them love when my time here is done. Not to please them either, but to please God who calls us to be His hands and feet. This was a great post – as always – Eric.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Brian. I ‘hear’ and agree with you. The one word with which we might view differently is – you define/describe the above as facets of ‘success.’ I’m inclined to think of and view your perspectives as aligned with ‘significance.’

      “You say tomato, I say tomato.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Semantics aside, it’s all good!

      • No that makes sense for sure, Eric. Thanks again for a great post. How are things on your end? Hope you’re doing well. I’m cautiously optimistic that yesterday’s snowstorm might be our last for awhile. Ah who am I kidding it’ll be snowing again soon I’m sure but at least it’s going to be above freezing for a few days here! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Love the quote at the beginning ๐Ÿ™‚ Plans do so often get in the way of living.

    PS- just as I reached to hit “Post Comment” I knocked a full cup of coffee across my desk. I feel like that was the universe warning me to be careful what I wish for.

  8. Indeed, plans can constrain, just as goals can demotivate. Glad you liked the Campbell quote.

    The universe is always sending signals. It’s if we’re attuned and how we then interpret what has been received. But yes, being careful for what we wish seems prudent. ๐Ÿ™‚

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