How do we experience success?

Ihave often wondered why I feel uncomfortable tying the word “success” into any description of wellness coaching – after all, isn’t that what people want to experience? At a recent workshop the question came up again and it gave me cause to think, read (and chat) further about the concept. What does success actually mean?  

A positive interpretation would be the achievement of any goal you set yourself.  This morning watching the German soccer team run around the pitch having won the final in the World Cup, there was no doubt that they were exhibiting symptoms of that feeling of “success”!  How proud they were. Positive emotions abounded. There was plenty of “meaning” in their efforts and they were certainly “engaged” and the shared joy which came from the “positive relationships” with team members, their coach and their fans all would have contributed to a longer lasting feeling of happiness than if the win was a rapid competition between two men with little publicity.  In this case, “success” was evident and a good thing!

But what makes me feel uncomfortable is when people are seeking “success” with their main aim to be seen to be successful by other people.  In other words an externalized recognition.  And we do see this when clients come to us to satisfy someone else’s idea of what they should look like or how they should be living. “Being successful” to me seems quite empty compared to the notion of living an enriched and fulfilling life.  

Moments of satisfaction are wonderful and even more so when we have bounced back from setbacks, yet I refer to Simon Sinek’s words that “there is often an irony to success. Many people who achieve it don’t always feel it”.

I agree that success and achievement are not the same thing. When we achieve a goal, we tick a box and feel good – for a while. We have got WHAT we wanted. Real success comes from the feeling of clarity around WHY we want it.  Back to purpose and meaning again. Our goals are milestones along the way. Ok you might say this is simply a semantic argument and I’d agree but whatever word you use, whether you see achievement and success as the same thing, be clear about the reason why we are doing what we’re doing in the first place. 

Because this is who we are.