How do you ascribe value to yourself? What does the word "success" mean to you? For me, it is an ongoing evaluation. So, let me explain. There was a time in my life when I thought that being successful meant driving the "right" car, living in the "right" neighbourhood, or being married to the "right" woman. But life is the ultimate teacher, and at times, life's lessons can be difficult to learn.
When I was young, everything seemed to be in a zero-sum equation. You either won or you lost. An outcome was either good or bad. As it turns out, this was a simplistic view. Nothing is ever quite so simple. There are pros and cons to everything, opportunities to be had, sacrifices to be made, and all the while, you are growing as an individual. At times, this growth can be painful. At other times, delightful. But, all the while, you are changing – and this is the only constant.
Success, therefore, is a choice. When you wake up in the morning, do you know how your day will turn out? If not, ask yourself this; have you set goals for yourself? These should take the form of short–, medium–, and long– term outcomes that you would like to see in your life. What is important to you? For some, the next zero on their bank balance is all they aspire to. For others, seeing their family happy and thriving gives the most satisfaction. You need to decide what is right for you. But, you need to decide – and, ultimately, it is the choices we make that define us.
For me, I equate success to being the best version of myself that I can be. I try to live deliberately, that is to say, I try to have my life be something which I do on my own terms. It is not always easy, but at the end of the day, it is up to me to decide the outcomes I want to see. I set goals. I set standards. I set desired results. And, all the while, I remain conscious of the process, doing everything I can to realize the potential I know I have within me.
You might say "how do I know how much I can do?" Well, have you ever sat down with an A4 pad of paper and done a personal "stock-taking" of your skills? Martina Navratilova once said "if you can do one thing well, someone will always need your services." As it turns out, nowhere is that narrative more important than in South Africa in the time that we find ourselves in. With an unemployment rate of 33%+, it is imperative that each and every one of us gains a saleable skill. I maintain that, in this country, we don't have an unemployment problem but, rather, and an employability problem.
Whether you are unemployed, working for a boss, or a professional person, you want what everybody wants. You want to be able to provide for yourself, your family, and leave some sort of a legacy. You want to achieve self-actualisation, that is to say, get to the point where you feel that your life actually matters. As I have pointed out, this means different things to different people, but whatever it means to you, whether or not you reach that point will depend on you, and you alone.
No government can make you feel like your life matters. You come into this world with nothing and you leave the same way. At the end of it all, only you will be able to say whether or not you did everything you could to reach your goals, to realize your aspirations. Only you will know if you did your best. And, whether you like it or not, it is impossible to deceive yourself even if you have managed to convince the world otherwise.
Therefore, I put it to you – if you are waking up today, and you are unhappy with where you are in your life, ask yourself this; how can I change my life, what must I do to bring about that change, and how badly do I want it? Your actions will give you the answer. Ultimately, your actions speak the loudest.