Tuesday 25 October 2016

Success, redefined: Accomplishment has to do with self-worth, not net-worth

Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30

'Hello friend, I return to my desk next week. If it's an emergency, hold your breath or drink a glass of water upside down...' So read an automated out-of-office reply I received from an associate a couple of weeks ago.

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It was a refreshing change from the guilt-ridden annual leave emails that are common nowadays. You know, the ones that include at least three alternative email addresses, an emergency response protocol and a vague promise that the email account will be accessed at some point during their six-and-a-half-day holiday.

The woman who penned this automated response - a best-selling author - is successful in the traditional sense. It was only after receiving her email that I realised she is successful in the truest sense too.

I know lots of successful people: go-getters, change-makers and dream-chasers; self-made millionaires and celebrated artists. And yet I only know a small handful of people that I would deem as truly successful.

We spend an awful lot of time deconstructing the habits of successful people in the hope of gleaning a nugget of wisdom. We spend considerably less time asking what success really means.

The truth is that real success has to do with self-worth, not net-worth. We can achieve for achievement's sake, yes, but our efforts are in vain if we don't know what it is that we're actually working towards.

Truly successful people have made their mark, but they also know how to kick back and let loose. Oscar Wilde put it best: "To live is the rarest thing in the world," he wrote. "Most people exist, that is all".

As someone who struggles with the work-life balance, I can spot those who have found equilibrium a mile off. They share a set of characteristics and qualities that allows them to go with the flow and get into the moment. These are the seven habits of truly successful people:


Truly successful people don't live to work, they work to live. They don't feel guilty about taking a long lunch or leaving the office early, nor do they labour under the delusion that the company will implode if they take a day off. The more you value yourself, the more you value your time off.


Because they haven't been indoctrinated into the cult of over-work, truly successful people enjoy a sense of freedom that the rest of us could only imagine. They don't unconsciously bridle themselves with circumstances or list the 101 reasons why they can't do something before even considering whether it's something they'd like to do. Truly successful people derive their sense of aliveness from spontaneity, just as they equate a lack of it with inertia and ennui.


Truly successful people don't believe in special occasions. And they certainly don't wait for the right opportunity to use the Waterford Crystal or Jo Malone candle. Likewise, with drama and disaster always somewhere around the corner, they make sure to celebrate the sweet spots in between.


Truly successful people have personal milestones. However, they rarely follow the well-trodden marriage/house ownership/children route. Experiences and adventures tend to be higher in their order of priorities and they'd rather tick their own boxes than the boxes others feel obligated to tick.


Truly successful people don't map out detailed five-year plans. They have a loose idea of where they want to get, but they know that life invariably takes its own direction. They're sitting in the driver's seat, yes, but they are also acutely aware that they're only along for the ride.


Truly successful people know that worry, anxiety and panic are fruitless emotions that ultimately coil us up and slow us down. 'Where is the gain?' is a question they often ask themselves. And when it comes to ageing, blood pressure-raising stressors, they know that there is nothing to gain and everything to lose.


There is often a shadow side to success - a strange feeling of discontent and a niggling lack of fulfilment. Writer Leo Tolstoy explored this irony when he suffered from depression, despite enjoying significant literary success. "A person only awakens and truly lives when he sees and feels in every other person the same spirit that lives within him," he concluded. Truly successful people know that success is better shared.

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