Formulating Success

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the pursuit of success is the driving force behind our decisions. Despite the nature of any particular decision –whether academic, social, economic or personal– it is possible to identify part of the cognitive decision-making process being dedicated to a willingness to achieve and a desire to succeed.

While success can be conceptualised in numerous ways, it is the way in which we define it that I wish to accentuate. I must emphasise that I do not intend to discourage goal-setting or even the pursuit of success and it is not my aim to criticise anyone in the process of working towards their ambitions. Rather, I aspire to help you either solidify your resolve to proceed in the direction of your idea of success, or to provide you with an opportunity to reflect on your conceptions of success.

We often hear of those individuals who climb the corporate ladder on the path to success. While this presentation of success may appear quite distant from the experiences of a university student, success is very much present in our lives, albeit in alternate forms –I am sure this is no great revelation. While studying to achieve that final course score you covet, or putting in the extra hours to get that promotion at work, it is sometimes quite an interesting exercise to reflect about what it is that you consider your goals, or your conception of the pinnacle of success.

Upon doing this, the follow-up question to yourself may request reasons for your formulation of success. Indeed, this is serious D&M stuff that you may want to save for that late-night post-Civic conversation with your BFFL, but I am serious when I say you may be surprised at the results of this cognitive exercise. Should you engage in this exercise, many of you will commence by forging a link between success and an ultimate career ambition. Others will slice the notion of success into a series of short-term academic, social and economic achievements –for instance, trying to get your bank balance to surpass three digits!

Once you have mapped out your personal conception of success, the time has come to reflect upon why you have limited success to your definition of the term before asking yourself the vital question “what then?” This question requires you to give thought to your feelings should you achieve your conception of success. You may find that your “success” is not accompanied by a sense of completion.

While I am not sure if you are able to take anything from this article, I draw your attention to two words which I hope will resonate with you as you continue your pursuit of various successes. These words are perspective and re-evaluation.

After having fabricated an image of success, place that image in perspective by comparing it to alternate conceptions of success and a desire for happiness. Is this achievement really going to increase my long-term utility? Where this question is answered in the negative, or hesitantly answered in the affirmative, it is then a re-evaluation of your definition of success may be required.