Meaning and Success

The title of this post is significant. Did you see it? If you missed it, read it again. This post is not about the meaning of success, but about the relationship between meaning and success.

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How often do you think that you automatically have meaning in your life merely because it is considered to be successful by some standard? Are you living your life from a place of fulfillment? Do you enjoy what you are doing? Or do you feel there must be more to life than the daily grind from eight to five?

To carve out a life that is filled with meaning, it is first important to define what you think of as having “meaning”.

The (Google) dictionary defines meaning as:

noun: meaning; plural noun: meanings

1. what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action.
synonyms: definition, sense, explanation, denotation, connotation, interpretation, elucidation, explication

2. implied or explicit significance.
synonyms: significance, sense, signification, import, thrust, drift, gist, implication, tenor, message, essence, substance, purport, intention

3. important or worthwhile quality; purpose.
synonyms: value, validity, worth, consequence, account, use, usefulness, significance, point

In answering the question, is my life meaningful, we will focus on definitions 2 and 3. If your life has meaning, you therefore would consider it to:

  • be significant
  • have substance
  • be intentional
  • have value, worth
  • be useful

It is not enough to live a life (personally or in a work situation) just by going through the motions. Ask yourself:

  • Am I spending the majority of my time doing things that are significant (sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy)
  • In comparison, how much time do I devote to being a slave to someone else’s meaning and success through social media, technology or other digital information?
  • Do I focus on activities that have substance – that will not be here today, and irrelevant tomorrow? Will the product of my time stand the test of time?
  • Am I being intentional with my attention, energy and time to such an extent that I know and understand my pitfalls and struggles that prevent me from living a life of meaning?
  • Am I thinking about ways in which I can add value and worth to my own life, and those with who I am coming into contact with? Are my thoughts of a “high quality” or do I get drawn into negativity easily?
  • Would others consider my input and assistance to be useful? How can I be more useful in work and personal relationships?
Happiness and meaning

It is so important to be intentional about carving out the life of meaning that you are so desperately searching for.

Goal setting is one way of being more intentional with your time, focus and energy, but there are different ways to do this, including mindfulness practices and by doing some introspection.

Success is not necessarily an indicator of how meaningful your life is, but it is also necessary to determine how you define success.

Some business leaders have defined success as follows:

  1. “Success is in the eye of the beholder. What one person considers a success might be an abject failure to someone else. Success is defined by one’s expectations.”-Jason Zasky, Editor and co-founder, Failure magazine
  2. “Success to me is living with authenticity, passion and a sense of wonder. It means committing to only that which lights my fire, feeds my soul and challenges me to be my best. Success means to me means living my truth, sharing my gifts and making my unique contribution to the world.” -Linda Joy, President /Publisher , Aspire Magazine,
  3. “Success is a feeling of satisfaction and self-worth that comes from the realization of a goal that I set to accomplish.” -Frank Spillers, Co-Owner, Global Horizons, LLC,
  4. “Success means caring more about the personal and professional growth of others instead of your own.”-GL Hoffman,

So success could be about financial or career achievements, but I would challenge that to say that it’s about much more than that. The real question is, how would you define success?

And finally, how does your definition of success fit into your definition of living a meaningful life? Is your meaning and success worth the sacrifice? Is it worth the pain and tears to make it all work? Is it worth fighting for?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then you have found a wonderful tension between balancing meaning and success in your life, and are you well on your way to firstly, living and meaningful life, and secondly making a giant success thereof!

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