The Measure of Success

by Fernando Perfas

Photo by ZMacháček on Unsplash

When we declare a person successful, what do we really mean? Are we passing judgment only on an aspect of his or her life, or do we mean the person’s entire life? What and whose standards against which do we judge a person’s success?

The highly subjective elements of measuring success make the whole exercise rather confusing. We measure success by assessing the person’s net worth based on assets minus his liabilities in a purely monetary sense. However, is this enough to declare a person successful or not? How about those who overcome overwhelming personal tragedy or those who rise above their disability to lead normal lives?

Perhaps, we do use a standard to measure success. We just don’t pay much attention to it. And often muddle through in our judgment, throwing our own personal values into the mix.

It brings us to the question of values which, unknowingly or subconsciously, we often use as standards for measuring success. We employ social and personal values to judge a person’s or our own success or failure, whatever the case may be.

Social values are measures of what society considers desirable or beneficial achievements, whereas personal values are those we hold essential or beneficial to ourselves.

Social values include character and work values. Character values are those necessary to be considered a good human being, such as loyalty, courage, commitment, respect, etc. Work values are things one likes in a job or what gives one a sense of fulfillment in a job, i.e., public relations, professionalism, prestige, etc.

” … a person may not have much material wealth or high social status to show and yet, considers himself successful based on goals he has set himself to achieve or how he has lived up to his personal code and moral values.”

Personal values include family relationships, educational achievement, health, spirituality, professional or business success, social status, etc. These are measures we use to judge our achievements or success.

These values overlap; for example, business success is not only a personal achievement but also beneficial to society. A scientist who considers the discovery of new knowledge important to him also holds the potential to contribute to society with new discoveries or inventions.

A talented athlete sets personal goals, such as qualifying for the Olympics, and if he succeeds, he not only considers himself successful but also brings honor to his country. Many gifted persons are primarily driven to achieve what they consider the pinnacle of their talent, and the fame and fortune that come with it are secondary. The achievement of their highest goal is an act of self-actualization, making them feel complete. The true measure of success.

Generally, when we judge a person’s success, we measure the obvious social value of his achievements without necessarily knowing what motivated the person to accomplish such a feat. We often gauge success according to the person’s wealth, title, accolades, and other social trappings. However, one may be successful in his career or business and yet, feels a failure in other matters, such as love or family life, personal health, friendship, etc. Conversely, a person may not have much material wealth or high social status to show and yet, considers himself successful based on goals he has set himself to achieve or how he has lived up to his personal code and moral values.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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