Significance vs. Success

What is success? Today’s view, in Western culture, defines success in terms of fame and/or fortune. For example, people are considered successful when they reach the highest levels of their chosen endeavors. Trophies, awards, bonuses, job titles, certificates, prizes and the corner office are treasured symbols reflecting success. Likewise, houses, cars, boats, and club membership are the trophies of financial success. You might recall a once-popular bumper sticker that read “The one with the most toys wins!”

I believe success in these terms falls short of true success. Brian Tracy, who is in the people-building business, wrote,

“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ’What’s in it for me?’”

However, since it is difficult to change the vernacular, let’s use a different word.  How about significant?  To me, being significant means living an unselfish life that puts others ahead of self. The result is a legacy defined by the number of lives impacted, rather than the size of a bank account. Tracy and others teach that fame and fortune don’t define success, but are the natural benefits if we don’t make them the goals. Even in the dictionary, “significance” precedes “success.”  I wonder how much better the world would be if more people focused on leaving a legacy of significance.

“The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance – and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.” — Oprah Winfrey, O Magazine, September 2002

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” — Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

“There are fine things which you mean to do some day, under what you think will be more favorable circumstances. But the only time that is surely yours is the present, hence this is the time to speak the word of appreciation and sympathy, to do the generous deed, to forgive the fault of a thoughtless friend, to sacrifice self a little more for others. Today is the day in which to express your noblest qualities of mind and heart, to do at least one worthy thing which you have long postponed, and to use your God-given abilities for the enrichment of someone less fortunate. Today you can make your life – significant and worthwhile. The present is yours to do with as you will.” — Grenville Kleiser

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” — Bible, Matthew 7:12

As we live our lives, it’s important to realize that everyone leaves a legacy and that we get to choose whether our legacy will be one of significance or something less.

God Bless,

— CC

©Copyright March 2011, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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