I'll be HOME for Christmas

A Successful New Year

You say you want 2021 to be a successful new year. I’m sure you do! But have you figured out exactly what success would look like?

I am sure that many people, as they consider New Year’s Resolutions will say “success” is a priority. Some will define that in terms of goals and targets they hope to aspire to in 2021. But success has to be more than that. For example, if these objectives are reached by questionable means, or are just too easy, would that still be defined as success?

Look up the word “success” in the dictionary and you’ll find it defined as “a favorable or desired outcome or result.” Webster’s Dictionary defines success as “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.”

Well, it certainly can be those things, but I feel that success has to be much more than just a favorable or desired outcome. All too many people arrive at a satisfactory result and ask, “Is that all there is?”

Perhaps success is difficult to define because is not a static condition. It means different things to different people at different times in different situations. It can last for a very long time, such as in a successful relationship, or it may exist for only an instant, such as scoring the game-winning goal.

Some people equate success with happiness, and certainly that is an important measure. But what’s often overlooked is that it’s a lot easier to be successful when you’re happy doing what you do. It is possible to be successful and NOT be happy. So, if you’re not happy in your work, in order to enhance your chance for success you’re going to have make a decision: to change what you’re doing; change where or how you’re doing it; or change your attitude towards what you are doing.

It’s that last point, changing your attitude, that’s often overlooked.

John Wooden was a basketball coach at the UCLA in Los Angeles. He won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period—seven in a row—as head coach at UCLA, an unprecedented feat. Within this same period, his teams won a record 88 consecutive games.  He was named national coach of the year six times.

Coach Wooden always felt his task as a teacher was to guide his students in how to be a success in life as well as in basketball. He offered a unique definition of success, describing it as “the peace of mind attained through knowing you did the best of which you are capable.”

Many of us define success as making a certain amount of money, or exceeding our goals or objectives. We are tempted to think our kids are successful if they are A or B students. We always think that a C or a D is OK for the neighbour’s children, because they are “average”. But if OUR child comes home with a C on the report card, oh boy! We blame the teacher, or the child, and feel like they have failed and let us down. C’mon now, we’ve all done it, right?

But the reality is that not every child CAN be an A student. Some kids try to the very best of their ability, and they get a C.  Should we consider that as a failure, or as success? We are not all equal in intelligence, or ability, or in artistic skill or sporting aptitude, so we are not all going to get the same results.

Wooden’s philosophy is that we need to give people something to aspire to. In his own words, “The score is a by-product of the effort.” It is our attitude to what we are doing that defines success, not so much about what have I done, but have I done my very best. Mediocrity, regardless of the results, is never a success. If you get a B but could have had an A, that is less successful than an average student who gives it their best effort to get a C.

We can, and should, strive to experience success in every area of our lives: at home, at work, at play, at school, and in our personal relationships. Success comes from you doing your absolute best, which is something only you can determine and control. We can sometimes hoodwink other people, but we can never fool ourselves. That’s the difference between character and reputation. Your reputation is what you are perceived to be by others. Your character is what you really are. While we may hope that both will be good, the two are not necessarily the same.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that success is about doing better than other people. Who are the people you are comparing yourself to? Those other people might be failing, or might be getting results from mediocre effort or questionable methods. We should never measure our success against others, but rather against your own potential. Have I done my best of which I am capable in this job, in this relationship, in this situation?

Someone with a good handle on what success really is wisely wrote that “success isn’t any particular place, but rather the distance you travelled to get there.” It is certainly a far better measure of success to consider the distance travelled and the obstacles overcome, than where you happen to be at any particular time. To put it another way, “the journey is often better than the end.”

There is great satisfaction in knowing at the end of your day that you did the very best that you could. Success rarely consists of just one major achievement, although it can. But it more usually consists of continually reaching a series of reasonable and practical goals, which might be spread over a period of years in great undertakings. But it will also be made up of many minor successes along the way, which might occur in a single week, day, hour or minute.

For example, the aspiring youth who wants to become a professional athlete will have to achieve many minor successes along the way: The game-winning play, the overtime goal, moving up through the minor leagues, an injury-free season, conscripted by a major-league team, all of which would contribute to the long-term measure of success.

For the busy employee success might simply mean ending the workday with fewer items on the to-do list than there were at the beginning.

Whatever the situation, to be successful you can’t sit back and wait for things to happen; you have to make them happen. And always remember that a setback isn’t a failure unless you quit.

Finally, a few suggestions based on the philosophy that everything I know about success, I learned as a 5 year old from my mother. I find as I get older, these practical lessons are becoming increasingly pertinent again:

  1. Don’t lose it. My mother always said that when she gave me my weekly pocket money. I would guard it with my life! But she also pinned my mittens to my sleeve, wrote my name on the inside of my rubber boots and labeled the shoeboxes that housed my prized possessions.

    2. Write it down. Knowing that my memory was as fleeting as my intentions, she insisted I write down what I was supposed to pick up at the store and the dates my school assignments were due. As I enter 202113, at my advancing age, that practical suggestion is becoming even more relevant and practical.

    3. Put it away. Everything my mother owned had a home. She always knew where to find the egg beater, the broom and the carving knife – and unless they were being used, they that’s where they remained. The rule was “If you take it out, you put it away.”

    4. Every day make your bed, brush your teeth and tidy up. What started as a routine became a habit, and you seldom forget habits because they become unconscious behaviors that happen automatically. Now I walk every morning, write every day – in addition to the bed, teeth and tidy up regime.

    5. Get everything ready the night before. Most of the things we had to get ready were items we needed for school the next morning, such as money for the bus, assignments, a packed lunch, and of course clean underwear. Heaven forbid that we could be hit by a car and taken to the hospital without clean underwear! But learning to plan ahead helps immensely in adult life.

    6. Do it now. “Later” was not in my mother’s vocabulary. Taking out the garbage, getting the messages, doing homework or practicing music – anything important – all had to be done immediately. This “do it now habit” comes in handy these days when temptations to procrastinate are strong.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So from me to you: Have a better year than we have had in 2020, and be happy and successful 2021.