This planet has seen its fair share of rich, pwerful, beautiful and happy people, but who can say which of these has been truly successful? Is it possible to provide a definition for success that is applicable to all, or is it something that must be felt by the individual?
Success is a personal thing. Success is goal oriented. A bum can reach success if his goal is merely to gain another meal. A cancer patient can gain success by merely surviving another year. Donald Trump's goal in life may be to own all the land in North America through Real Estate. If so, he is not successful yet. You could define success for everyone. Actually society has already set a stigma on success. Pass highschool, go to college, get a good job, start at the bottom and work your way up, get married have kids, move to the suburbs, retire with a nice 401K at around 65, spend the rest of your days fishing or something. That's american society's successful life. However when you do that you place stress on people that aren't fit for that type of success. You create classes and discrimination towards people that can't or don't want to go through those steps. Leave defining success alone and allow people to follow their bliss.
"Those who sacrifice liberty for security, deserve neither liberty or security." -Benjamin Franklin
Success cannot as yet be quantified into a universal criteria that is applicable to all human beings. Of the 6.7 or so billion people on this planet, absolutely none can all be included into a single system of socially acceptable ethical and moral principles. Diverse political, economic, religious, and traditional belief systems stratify humanity into groups that prevent the adoption of any unified standard of well being or success. We can then assume that success can be measured beyond the constraints of the individual to the largest category of classification we currently use; success relative to our ethnic race, success relative to the populace of our nation-state, success relative to our western culture, etc. But to classify the success of the whole of humanity remains at best a highly improbable but not impossible goal.
Success is achieved when you are doing something you love and helping people at the same time. This is one of the top "rungs" of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Your physical needs are taken care of through your career, you are confident in yourself and your abilities, you have companionship in the form of a spouse and friends. When you strive to not only better yourself but better those you interact with you have reached success.
The question as I read it seemed to ask how do you know if someone has had a successful life. Goals are a means used to become successful not necessarily success in themselves. You can succeed in a particular goal but you then have to set another goal because now you have a need to work towards something.
All of the human race have an underlying ethical and moral code. The problem with different cultures is that we learn that somethings are acceptable and some things are not.
I think success is defined as the point where you're happy with your life, where you feel satisfied with what you've got and what you've done. For some people, that's a dollar figure, for others, it's helping people, everyone has their own definition.
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