We are all familiar with the story of Leo Tolstoy “How much land does a man need?” A young man takes up the challenge of running all day to cover as much land he can before sunset so that he can be owner of all the land as the king of land has decreed. In his greed for more, he keeps on running too far and too late to return. The major tragedy is that he dies in his attempt by over exhaustion. The final words of the king are cryptic, “All that a man needs is six feet of land, but alas this man never could understand it!” The story is an apt example of what exactly success is.
Earl Nightingale defined success as, “Success is progressive realization of worthy ideals.” Indeed, success cannot be generalized, it is relative. For someone it might be living a decent life with all his needs met for other it may be possessing million dollars in her account for someone like Dr. Baba Amte it may be serving the tribal people with medical aid. The crux of what Earl Nightingale says above is found in Bhagvad Geeta when Lord Krishna admonishes Prince Arjun to do his duties as a warrior and fight and not worry about the fruit. Exactly this is what happens even today, people think that the ‘fruit’ is what defines success. Lord Krishna is telling us not the fruit but efforts in the right direction are what define whether one is successful or not. Once you know that you are doing what your are called for and meant for, you don’t have to worry about the fruit or success, you have to keep on doing what you are best at.
This is where contentment comes into picture. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Contentment makes a poor man, rich and discontentment makes a rich man poor.” Cambridge Dictionary defines Contentment as, “the feeling of being happy and satisfied.” Most of us are not happy in life because we are not content. Our minds usually deceive us in thinking that happiness is outside there. The 21st Century world is fraught with technological advancement; we have everything at our disposal at a click of a button. But our thirst for more never seems to be quenched. The commercials thrive on our desire for more, they will tweak with the objects, refine and make it better and leave us wanting for more.
The major culprit here is our fickle mind and our inability to keep it focussed on the present. When our minds are beset by the regrets of the past and the worries of the future, we fail to be content and happy. In that vein one can say contentment or real success is being able to focus on ‘what is’ and accepting it. Of course this does not mean that one should not dream big dreams or one should not aspire to be more. We should be able to balance both while being content with what is, we should have worthy ideals and goals to strive for. But we should be able to distinguish in the fact that it is not the goal but the striving that is what is success and excellence.
Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist in his famous ‘Pyramid of needs’ actually was pointing out the very thing we are discussing it. There are two facets to his theory; one, success is relative for someone it may be ‘food, clothing, shelter, for other it could be relations, for someone else it could be being popular. The second aspect to his theory is found in the apex of the pyramid, which he termed as ‘Self Actualization’. Self Actualization means becoming everything that we are meant to become. Note here Maslow is pointing out all the below rungs of the pyramid represent ‘deficit needs’. All the below rungs talk about possessing something to make us happy but at the apex, ‘self actualization’ means striving for becoming all that one is meant to become, all that is his or her Karma. That is what the Bhagavad Geeta talks about we saw, striving and not the fruit is success! It is beautifully depicted in Robert Browning’s Poem, ‘The Grammarian’s Funeral’:
“That low man seeks a little thing to do,
Sees it and does it. This high man with a great thing to pursue dies ere he knows it.
That low man goes on adding one to one
His hundred soon meet
This high man aiming at a million
Misses it by a unit
That has a world here should he need the next
Let the world mind him!
This throws himself of God, and unperplexed
Seeking shall find him.”
What distinguishes between the low man and the high man is the low man always is aiming to own something that is his definition of success while the high man is defined by his actions, his striving to be better. This is the lesson that we need to drive home be it in student life, as a professional, a business person or any other.
As leaders, teachers, parents let us help our next generation to strive to be a better version of themselves. Let us help them to develop a mindset that is ‘attached to nothing and open to everything.’ Let us be an example to them as leaders, parents, teachers or mentors in striving to be a better version of ourselves. Being content with what is while also dreaming and reaching for more. Let us be an living example of what the Alcoholic Anonymous Prayer says,
“God grant me the courage to change the things that I can,
God grant me the peace to accept the things that I cannot change,
And God grant me the wisdom to know the difference between the two.”
So allow me to define success with a new perspective: “Know that success is this/Finding and living your bliss.”
Corporate Soft Skills Trainer & Motivational Speaker, ‘The Edge’.
Asst. Prof. Sanjay Ghodawat Institutes.