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What If Success Was Measured by How Well You’ve Loved?

Heart Hands

“That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was a child, I learned a lot from my parents and other authority figures. I learned the difference between wrong and right, the value of hard work and perseverance, that one must not mistreat or use people, but be good.

I learned about love too, for when my loved ones were happy, the same joy always came back to me.

Making the difficult transition into adulthood, I picked up a whole lot of other things from whatever environment I managed to land in—from school, college, and my workplaces.

I learned that I had to get a certain rank in class for my intelligence to be considered acceptable. I was questioned and cross questioned repeatedly on why some kid who lived in my building got a better rank than me. Why couldn’t I perform better?

My future somehow seemed to be in peril due to my underperformance in math, geography, and languages, and my bad handwriting.

So I learned to be competitive and strive harder. I also learned that no matter what I did, even if I performed better than my last result, it wasn’t good enough because some friend in class or someone in the colony or prior performance by my siblings was always better!

Soon an epic thirst for ‘success’ kindled in me.

I learned that success meant doing well in class—getting great marks, getting into a good college, getting epic marks there, as well (you cannot fall lower than a first class), getting an epic job. And it should be in an epic company (brand name) and pay well enough to sound epic and also allow me to spend and save well, to provide sufficiently whenever I find a partner, have kids etc.

Makes sense, right?

Oddly enough, I managed to do most of that—get good marks, get a good job in an epic company with an epic package, and make my parents proud.

I seemed to be at the pinnacle of (my self-defined) success!

Well, not quite.

For one, I hated my epic job. The epic company that had hired me (thought they had bought my soul) put me in a department that was a far cry from what they had hired me for.

They increased the pay of said department a few months down the line (there were many others stuck in the same mess as me). I guess it was supposed to compensate. I also had to move away from home, far from my loved ones.

After much frustration and in a span of one year, I was packing my bags and returning home. I wasn’t ready to hand over all of my soul, after all!

What happened after that is a long story best kept for another time. Let’s just say that I returned to what would be, compared to my peers, a relatively mediocre place, both in terms of position and finances.

I was fast slipping off the success radar!

Something else also started happening though. While I was busy wallowing in self-pity and licking my wounds, I became more reflective and perhaps, more observant.

I noticed how happy I was to be with my family.

With all the glorious dysfunctionality that existed within, of which I am an integral part, I realized that I love them to bits and pieces. I had always taken them for granted, and the time spent away is helping me to treasure the time I spend with them now.

I discovered joy in little things.

A neighborhood cat gave birth to a litter of kittens. The mere sight of those tiny babies evoked love and joy in me that I cannot put into words! It was pure bliss feeding them every day, checking on them, and playing with them.

Most of the litter along with the mom cat dispersed. But two kittens, now nearly year old cats, still linger, and I look forward to going home every single day to feed and cuddle the furballs.

I took a course in dancing.

It was one thing I had loved as a child but that I simply wasn’t good at. While I struggled with it through the course, it was a liberating experience. It made me realize that we place a lot of shackles around ourselves as far as our capabilities are concerned.

I questioned my ultimate ambition in life.

Do I want to compromise on my health, happiness, and loved ones to achieve ‘success’ like everyone else around me seems to be doing? As a kid I had a lot of other dreams, and now I am revisiting them.

I realized that in the success I had been chasing for so long, in the rat race that I am still running, there is little room for integrity.

We are lying every day, be it to get a promotion, to get selected in an interview, or to aggressively sell a product. We are lying so much that it has become part of the fabric we’re made of.

I realized that power and success as I knew it did not teach love.

I noticed that people in prominent positions around me were not necessarily using their power with kindness. I have seen people in power abuse those below them, aggressively push them to overwork, look down upon them, and invoke bitterness in them. And I have also seen such behavior being hailed as the hallmark of a performer who could get the job done.

I realized that it was my responsibility to learn to become a better human being.

Whether or not I learned to become successful in practical, worldly terms.

I am not saying I have risen above any of this, only that I am better aware of what I’m doing these days and I reflect on the kind of choices I want to make for the road ahead.

Just think about it—what if success was measured by how well you’ve loved instead of what you’ve earned or how many people know you?

What if success was actually how much you’ve loved life itself, filling it with love and giving even more love? And not necessarily what you are wearing, the places you’ve been to, or the phones, cars, and yachts you’ve owned?

What if success was measured by how much joy you’ve brought to the table and how much better or worse you left the place than when you arrived?

What if success was measured by how kindly and sincerely you’ve treated those around you?

What if you actually got negative points every time you treated someone meanly or unfairly or judged someone or looked down on someone?

How would your success graph look in that case? Would you need to put in more effort to make it better?

I know I would be in the red.

These days I make it a point to not take for granted all that I have been blessed with.

Things like a stable home, concerned parents who love me and care for me in spite of some tremendous difficulties and conflicts, a great education including a post grad degree, loving reassurance whenever I feel I’m not doing well in life, freedom to live life on my own terms. Two cats who let me feed them and give some reluctant hugs for the same—all this and more!

These days, I have also come to notice many who are working out of love, giving freely, who are true blessings, making this world a better place, in whatever small ways that they are. Quite possibly, you are one of them!

I’ve learned that one can always appreciate what one has instead of clamoring for more of everything; it’s a good way to feel content. Yes, there are things to be achieved and they will be achieved in due time. Yes, I still lie as much as I am required to and I need a do a lot of work there.

I accept that I still don’t know exactly where I am headed in life, and that’s okay. I prefer to call it figuring it out instead of failing.

At the very least, I know that I am editing my definition of success. I am learning a whole new definition in fact, bit by bit, every day!

Heart hands image via Shutterstock

About Anushree Baikerikar

Anushree is a nature lover who enjoys travelling and believes that we have an inherent need to express. She creates those expressions in the form of blog posts, scribbles, doodles and sketches. She is an aspiring writer and one day hopes to share a wonderful story with many. Visit her at http://little-flakes-of-snow.blogspot.com.

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  • I was asking myself the same question a few days back after I experienced what seems like a failure in my career life. I paused and had a conversation with my own self, revisiting the values that deep down I know are really important for me and starts redefining my term of success.
    Your post somehow makes me feel more at ease. Knowing that somebody else has gone through similar situation brings additional strength for me to carry on with my decision. So for that, I thank you Anushree 🙂

  • Anushree Baikerikar

    Hello Wandering Wee,

    First of all, many thanks for reading! I am glad that my writing connected with you.

    One of my friends exclaimed just a couple of days back that Failure is a stepping stone, and Success is a byproduct. I am planning to keep this in my mind. I do believe that life brings us certain experiences perhaps to shape us into someone much better than we can imagine.

    Here’s wishing you all the very best! I am sure your inner voice is going to guide you to many wonderful and meaningful endeavors in the days ahead! 🙂

  • Laura J Tong

    Such a great post Anushree, and so honest and objective a look at the way life panned out – some really great lessons in here. Thank you for sharing.

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  • Vid

    Great article ! Very well said that in today’s time the word ‘success’ has only been limited to few definitions – earning huge money, having a powerful position or getting married. We have gradually learnt to completely replace the idea of happiness with success. We assume that those who conform to such definitions of ‘success’ can only achieve happiness in life. I absolutely believe that success has a very subjective criteria which differs from person to person. However, if are not happy from inside we cannot be successful ever. Anyway, life is long journey and at the end being happy only matters. The notion of pass or fail is only the reflection of our limited understanding of life.

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  • Anushree Baikerikar

    Thank you Laura 🙂 and you are most welcome! If the message connected with you, I am truly glad. We face many ups & downs on our journey, I still find myself complaining here & there! But its heals me much so much better when I look deeper and gain understanding of what the situation is teaching.

    Hope there is a lot of love coming your way!

  • Anushree Baikerikar

    Thank you Vid! Thoughtful insights. It was a revelation for me to notice that I was happier in spite of my perceived failure. Often the guilt would come back – thoughts like my peers are way ahead than me, should I really be happy/carefree? Shouldn’t I be striving and be productive? It’s amazing that we have these beliefs so intricately woven into our minds – that we believe that it’s not right to be happy just appreaciating the simple joys that life brings. And oddly enough, its the everydayy joys that often bring the best happiness. I am truly glad if the message connected with you! Wishing you lots of loving success!

  • Vladimir

    Great article Anushree, made me think how I’m still lying

    to myself when it comes to my everyday thoughts about passion and career.

    I’ve been struggling with trying to align my passion with career for a long time and still currently am. I think it’s because we often hear “follow your passion and the money will follow and the work won’t feel like work anymore”, that is a great outcome but I think it’s rarely the case because your passion may not be necessarily financially rewarded. So, for some people, I think putting work and passion in separate categories would work better. In my example I enjoy things like: “tennis, beach volleyball, video games, socializing, discovering new places, journaling, eating healthy, exercising, outdoors” and I get my income from making web sites and internet marketing. And although I know it’s possible to make a business out of any of those things I mentioned I enjoy doing, I really wouldn’t want to and I feel like I wouldn’t enjoy them as much if I did. With that said, maybe the best thing to do is to figure out the balance between what you might like doing (I still like making web sites and internet marketing to some degree) and align that with financial goals, while keeping the passion separate.

  • Anushree Baikerikar

    Thank you Vladimir! It sounds to me like you are doing your best towards keeping your passions alive and you have quite a lot of them, which I feel is an added blessing because there are so many activities that will bring you true joy!

    Follow your passions and the wealth will follow, we have indeed heard it too often. But many a times – due to previous conditioning, because we just don’t know where to start or maybe because our current economic and financial conditions don’t allow us to, we are simply unable to make that transition.

    I myself enjoy drawing/sketching, painting, writing & travel. With God’s blessings and some courage, if any of those translate into something more, I know it will be a dream come true.

    But for now I am a marketer, working in digital marketing. I neither love, nor hate my job, but I know I am blessed to have it, since I have a source of income. There is always exaggerated communication involved in marketing (Eg. You just cannot live without our product!) and I feel silly doing it sometimes.

    But its a very true fact that only because this job has given me financial stability that I am able to pursue my passions in the first place!

    So these days I am trying to strike a balance by giving thanks for my work and focusing on things that make me joyful, even if I can give it only an hour or so at the end of the day. It helps me keep my enthusiasm alive and be open to possibilities!

    I hope you can also find an enjoyable balance between work and play. I am sure there will be many rewarding moments and it will sooner or later it may even contribute towards increased enthusiasm towards your work of website creating and marketing, as you achieve your financial goals!

    Wishing you lots of loving success and a fulfilling career ahead 🙂

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  • Such great insights! I wholeheartedly agree that we must start defining success in our own terms for it to be true success. I also realized that I don’t want to follow the set path to achievement and instead am following my bliss and joy. Feels amazing! 🙂

  • Anushree Baikerikar

    Thank you Dacia and sorry for the late reply!

    It took me a great while to even begin admitting this realization and even now its a daily struggle, but my days are brighter than before, and I am discovering how alive one can feel by simply stopping to appreciate small wonders which are already all around us – petting a cat, appreciating fresh leaves springing on trees, laughing with loved ones 🙂

    I am glad you are choosing the path of joy and bliss, it will surely take you to many wonderful places. Wishing you lots of loving success!

  • Marija Tödtling

    Thanks for the article Anushree, the question in the title made me think. I’m yet to discover what success means to me.