19 May 2022

The Measure Of Success

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Virtues Of Character

Definitions of success vary. Yet irrespective of this, the measure of success is by the virtue of character. In other words, a virtuous character is success. In general terms, we can define success as the accomplishment of aims. These vary depending on our values, priorities, and current situation. But is accomplishing aims true success? If so, that would mean that success is a destination; a means to an end. Rather than a set of character traits that govern behaviour to affect outcome. Even still, what are the attributes and processes that allow one to be successful? What are the qualities of success? And what is the benefit of defining success for ourselves? Before I answer these questions, and offer a definition for success, I’ll clarify what it is not.

Success is not winning or gaining advances over others. It is not monetary, nor material. But I’d be lying if I said money doesn’t matter, because it does. Money and material goods have an important place in life, but they do not constitute success. It is our values that determine the relative importance of such things in our life. But, at least to some degree, money and Co matter, but they do not constitute success. To be frank, money gives us a lot; more autonomy, experience, comfort, connections – and the list goes on. While important, these are not the heart and soul of success. Because at best, money is an instrument, a means by which we can navigate and experience the world. Thus, success is not status, nor the accumulation of things. It is not the sum of connections that enable one to wield power over others. True success is a virtue of character that deals with power and influence with integrity. Hence, success is the measure of a man by the virtues of character. Thus, the greatest opportunity we have is to develop a strong character: this is true success.

A strong character denotes a person who is steadfast in their principles. They adhere to a set of values with a moral governance, giving them the conviction to act with confidence. Without such conviction we fall prey to persuasion and enslavement. Power, control, greed, and deceit become legitimised means to advance social standing. Decisions and actions are thus made to pursue and preserve reputation and influence. They are thus condoned to preserve stature. Money and Co being key components to achieve that end. But the green and gold do not make us more aware. Nor more conscientious, intelligent, creative, courageous or generous. Only an inner development of character can garner such things. These are the true hallmarks of success. These characteristics will return dividends beyond economic, political, and social reform. Still, a dependable character must coincide with a well founded definition of success.

In the broadest sense, I define success as having a virtue of character, and free will. Virtues of character include honesty, integrity, generosity and compassion to name a few. Free will is one’s capacity to be free. That is, the freedom to do otherwise, and the ability to do so. It is having psychological, physical, and social freedom. This extends to having freedom of choice, movement, and expression within society. For me, virtues of character and attributes of success are synonymous. Because success is the sum of character. These include competence, creativity and courage, among others. Success is having a generosity of spirit that’s founded on a deep respect for self and others. It’s the confidence to move forward in truth, despite opposition. In a nutshell, it is the virtue of truth, because freedom and deceit can not coexist. Furthermore, success is the determination to self-actualise. To become all potentialities; to move beyond all constraints at will. But to do so, we must first form a strong character and then establish a baseline from which to operate from.

As noted above, a dependable character in one who stands firm in their convictions. They have a sense of honour and a code of ethics that form the principles of their behaviour. There are many traits that build character, but there are a few that are non-negotiable. The most important quality of all is truth, and this goes hand in hand with integrity. This is the baseline we must establish. There is no success without truth. Despite appearances, those who do not follow this code will succumb to their demise. Veritas numquam perit: truth never perishes. To reiterate, this is the baseline, from here we must adopt the following attributes.

They are the Triple A’s: awareness, accountability and action. These attributes provide a simple framework to navigate daily life. They’re defined as follows: awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself. Including one’s values, motivations and behaviours, and how these influence our relationships. Accountability is the quality of being accountable. That is, being responsible for oneself and actions, past and present. Action is the process of doing. Of taking action, or implementing the practical steps required to achieve an outcome. With our truth intact, we use awareness to determine our decisions. We accept accountability for our actions regardless of the consequences. So that we can move forward with integrity and confidence.

Defining success for ourselves helps to clarify our values and motivations. This is important as it helps us navigate life with confidence, as it provides us with a personal road map. Without a clear definition of success we are susceptible to social conditioning. Not only that, we fall victim to the whims of social and political agenda. The measure of success is by the virtue of character – governed by truth – that represent a set of traits. These are attitudes, dispositions, or character traits that determine our behaviour. The Triple A’s provide a framework for that behaviour, that serves as a means to navigate life.

A Process For Navigating Life 

The speed of your success (evolution) hinges on your ability to apply the Triple A’s in your life. Develop Awareness, Accept Accountability, and Take Action.

1. Develop Awareness | Cultivate a high degree of awareness of self. Identify your values, motivations and behaviours. And understand how these influence your relationship with yourself, others and your environment. 

Answer the following questions

What is the biggest obstacle preventing you from doing, being or having what you need or want right now? 

Is it mental, as in a belief you hold about yourself in relation to success? For instance, you believe you don’t have one of the following. The desired education, background, physical appearance, enough money or support?

Is it a specific person or group of people in your life? For instance, do you feel you don’t belong? That you are not understood by your family, friends, colleagues or peers? 

How can you: a) navigate the situation in a more successful way? b) remove yourself from the situation? c) minimise your involvement? 

Awareness is the first step before taking Accountability. After identifying the obstacles, the next step is to Accept Accountability.

2. Accept  Accountability | Being completely accountable for yourself,  and your actions, past, and present. No excuses. Do not blame others for your life situation. There is no empowerment in victimisation. How others behave is their responsibility. We cannot control the behaviours of others. We can only control our own reactions to them, and how we behave towards ourselves and others. While others influence our life circumstances, do not let this be an excuse for your own actions. Instead, let this be the driving force behind your motivation to change. Accept the current situation for what it is, and devise a plan to change it. This does not mean you condone the actions of others. Act with integrity and autonomy. 

Answer the following questions

In what ways can I accept this situation with grace and serenity?

What, if any, part did/do I play in allowing, condoning or perpetuating this situation? 

What autonomy do I have in this situation, and what steps can I take to make positive changes?

If faced with a similar situation in the future, what steps will I take to ensure I do not repeat this scenario?

Without realising it, we are complicit in creating our own negative situations. There are extreme exceptions to this rule. Some people are, in fact legitimate victims due to the actions of others, due to no fault of their own. But for the most part, we create our own reality. This is because somewhere along the line we have not been truthful to ourselves and others. We may accept situations and go along with things for one reason or another. It doesn’t matter the reason, or whether it was the ‘right’ choice or not. The point is, our decisions make us complicit. Sometimes we don’t have the awareness, or tools to avoid adverse situations, so we must develop them. One of our greatest teachers is our past. If we look at past situations with awareness and objectivity, we can gain clarity about our role in them. Even if we don’t know what to do, we know what not to do.

So far you have taken inventory of your Awareness. Accepted Accountability, now the final step is to take Action.

3. Take Action | Take the necessary practical steps required to change your situation. Act with integrity, intention, awareness, purpose and consistency.

Considering your answers above, devise a practical plan that you can execute immediately. Write out realistic, short, actionable steps that will get you closer to where you need to be. Example: You are stuck in a job you despise, surrounded by people you have no connection with. Solution: Look for another job. This is the simple answer. But the secret behind effective decision making is knowledge and honesty. Knowing who you are and being honest with yourself and others about what you want. Tip: Strike the word should from your vocabulary. You should not need to convince yourself of anything. This can be a sign that you’re trying to force something for a particular outcome.

If you find that your efforts are not moving forward, find out why. Are you being realistic? What compromises can you make while maintaining your values? Are you pushing too hard for a particular direction or result? Is it in line with your personal truth? Roadblocks signal us to pause, reconsider and assess our motivations, direction or strategy.

Think about what’s possible for you now, within your current position. Social, financial or otherwise. How can you better meet your financial needs? Can you minimise your expenses to give you more leeway? What resources, skills or connections can you utilise? Look for opportunities. Sometimes the less obvious or literal solutions offer the greatest means for change. The most important point is that you make a conscious effort to change your situation. Use the Triple A’s as a framework to expedite your success.

These two posts, here and here, discuss how the mind functions in relation to how we determine our values. It offers guidance on how to form personal values.