How Do You Measure Sucess?

There is an old story about the Devil finding a group of young men playing with a ball, tossing it back and forth over a net. The Devil asks them, “So, who is winning?”

The young men look puzzled – “We don’t know. We’re not keeping score. We’re just playing, having fun.”

“But if you don’t keep score, how do you know who won? “ asked the Devil slyly. So the young men started to keep score. Now they knew who won and lost each game. They also started to argue amongst themselves, and though each could tell you the score and who won, they remained puzzled as to why they no longer had as much fun as before.

I’ve had occasion recently to ask friends, “How do you measure success?” On reflection, my question was rather imprecise, for what I really wanted to ask was “How do you define success?” Nonetheless, the answers, when they came, were interesting. Almost as interesting, however, was the long pause that came after the question, as quite a few openly admitted they never really thought about it. Strange, how we can go through life without thinking much or any about what we are trying to accomplish in our lives, what are ultimate goals are, how close we are coming in achieving those goals, and by what yardstick we measure our success.

The un-aimed arrow never misses. Perhaps, we are just trying to maintain our innocence, and avoid the Devil’s trap by keeping score. Or, we are on such autopilot in our lives that it never occurs to question the direction in which we are heading, or how far we have to go before reaching our destination.

As to the answers I received, they crossed a spectrum from having money, a nice house, and “security” to being satisfied with your life, having friends, a loving family: from receiving recognition from your professional peers for your accomplishments to being able to say at the moment of your death “I wouldn’t have done anything differently.”

I wondered: if you did your very best to the greatest of your ability but you did not reach the goal you set for yourself, could you still consider yourself a success? And what if you did reach your goal, but you knew you were capable of more, were you still successful? I’ve had a whole lot more questions, but I think I’ll stop here and ask you, my readers – How do you define success? How would you answer my questions? What have I left out that you consider essential elements of this question? Do you think that a life can be meaningful without some measure of success?

I’m interested in hearing from all of you, and wish you all well.


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6 Responses to How Do You Measure Sucess?

  1. well me being me, my first thought was ‘success at what?’

    so i have to set my own parameters to answer that question, because evidently i am the only one who can determine if i am or not. perhaps ‘what makes you feel successful?’ would be easier to answer.

    for me, to accomplish what i set out to do, and not give up unless one of two things occurs. either i reach my objective in the best possible way, or i find i have good reason to abandon the endeavor. this is one way to feel successful.

    then overall, to live my life serving God, and not in the vain pursuit of selfish pleasures, and therefor not waste the life i have been given.

  2. Holy says:

    I redefined success in my 20’s relative to a personal development retreat program called The Wall ( in which each program participant comes up with his or her own Definition of Success (DOS) which is really a manifesto of my essential ways of being, doing, having in the world that must be present for me to feel vitality, passion, pride, joy and feeling at peace with myself and the world. So things like wanderlust, autonomy, recognition, connection and creative expression are success benchmarks I integrate into my life – in healthy ways, of course. And if you haven’t figured out by now, my short answer is that success to me is a journey and a process. And if the journey can be abouts these touchstone that puts me in touch with that vitality, passion, pride, joy, peace thing, then I can well and truly say, my work here is done.

  3. michiko san says:

    these your post is very intereste in people how they measure that?
    My personally is not look up big success to do that it make me a little easir to an achievements:-) you need to have healthy life yourselves to workout to be success thats not easir to do in todays world.
    Of course everybody is deffernt idea that some people are aim for a big fish LOL!
    I think it totally individually aim for what is success became president of America 😉
    Thank you for visit.

  4. Joe Metz says:

    Multiple part answer:
    1) My daughter gets through college successfully (graduates in May).
    2) Contentment in my work.
    3) A long & healthy retirement.

    Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  5. impattymac says:

    living a simple, uncomplicated life…being able to do the things I enjoy doing and being with the people I care about…maybe I should make a bucket list…

  6. Jana ♥ says:

    How do you define success?
    to be happy with my own life at this very moment. not to be envy for somebody’s else success as I am where I am because of my very own actions.

    Do you think that a life can be meaningful without some measure of success?
    I don’t know. As we are making progress since we were born and made our first move, crawl, step. These are all considered our successes and it continues through our lives. I think we just shouldn’t compare ourselves with each other. I think everybody has a gift in different areas and each of us should try to find that gift.
    Success can be translated into many meanings and many shades. And as you said you could have a very long and interesting discussion .

    But you never said your own opinion about it. What do you think Jorge?

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