Over the years I have often asked myself this question. I know that to many, the answer to this question may be as simple and straightforward as, “the more money you have, the more successful you are”. This is a simplistic answer but is it the complete answer? I think not.
My many hours of navel-gazing and contemplation lead me to believe that for the individual worker or business person, success can be defined in terms of both external and internal criteria. The most obvious external criterion of success is the basic concept of profit and loss. If you make a profit you are looked on as successful, if you make a loss then the opposite is assumed. As already discussed, this is the thing that most people think of when they think of the concept of success. Along with the ‘money equates to success concept’, other external criteria include your position or rank in an organisation or your social standing.
However, work and business success is an internal as well as an external matter.Outwardly you can appear highly successful but inside you can be suffering psychological pain. I believe that personal wealth is in no way the same as personal happiness. The approval of others is not the same as approving of yourself. Along with the more important internal criteria is that of enjoying what you are doing and getting a sense of personal meaning out of it.
People vary in their work interests, for instance putting different values on intellectual challenge, helping others, engaging in practical activities and so on. Another important internal criterion is that of being at ease with the values and ethics of what you do. Sometimes internal work and business success is at the expense of external success. To what extent are you prepared to compromise on your core values, and what are the obvious and hidden personal costs if you do?
Yet a further internal criterion is the sense of a job well done. Ideally, the job is one that you like and enjoy. However, you can also gain a sense of satisfaction by handling difficult work and business situations well — possibly minimising loss and damage rather than maximising gain.
There are no simple answers and you must decide what is important for you. At different times of your working life, your views and opinions may well change and adapt. However, I stress that creative thinking is relevant to both your inner self and you’re outer working lives and not just to those external definitions of success.