How do you measure success? Is it when you are     

  • the head of your class?
  • the leader in your profession?
  • an outstanding athlete?
  • a popular entertainer?
  • elected to high political office?

 Or is it when you

  • get many promotions in your work?
  • receive accolades and applause?
  • achieve approval from your peers?

 Perhaps it is when

  • your investments perform well.
  • your income supports a high standard of living.
  • your children are successful.

These and many other measures are applied to gauge success. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines success as achieving a “favorable or desired outcome.” Reaching one’s goals is certainly desirable but is that “success?”

The question is: Is it success or happiness that we seek?

I read a news story just last week about an Atlanta area businessman who achieved a good level of success and financial security but felt that something was still missing. He left the corporate world and founded an enterprise that helps Latin American coffee growers to be profitable. In that endeavor he has found a sense of fulfillment (happiness).

Dale Carnegie said “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” This suggests that “success” and “happiness” may be distinctively different. I have lived long enough to realize that happiness is often not the result of getting what you want. My Mama used to tell me “your wants won’t hurt you.”  I think a part of what she was saying was that you are not always satisfied when you get whatever it is that you desire.

Some may measure success by the level of popularity or acclaim that one receives. But do they bring happiness? Erma Bombeck cautions not to confuse fame with success. She says, “Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.” You decide which is which and which one you desire.

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being and contentment.” Success and happiness are necessarily contradictory. I believe it is possible to be both “successful” and “happy.” You can experience fulfillment and financial security while achieving your goals. One is not necessarily exclusive of the other. But contentment is something that cannot be measured by accomplishments or income. It is more than applause or acclaim can provide.

One mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be.” (Philippians 4:11) That is real success.

Jamie Jenkins

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