The road to success, we are told, is through hard work, dedication and focus. We need to keep our noses to the grindstone, shoulders to the wheel, eyes on the ball. It’s 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration, etc., etc. We’ve all heard these mantras before – from our parents, our teachers, our studies and our mentors – and our instincts tell us that the principles behind them are sound.
How do we explain all those people out there – perhaps even you – who follow this advice, yet still aren’t happy? How many times have we heard of people seemingly at the pinnacle of their careers suddenly finding themselves in a bleak, depressing point in their lives? People who have it all, but still don’t feel fulfilled? If all this advice we’ve been getting over the years is so good, why does it seem to turn out so bad for so many people? Good questions. And the answers are simpler than one might think.
To begin with, there really is no denying that our achievements are a direct correlation to the amount of effort we put in. Great things rarely, if ever, come to people who just sit around and wait for them. The trap we fall into, however, is believing that these kinds of achievements on their own equate to success. Many times they don’t. If one sacrifices family in the pursuit of wealth, is that person successful? Not if family is important to that person. If one has a prestigious job that requires him (her) to compromise his integrity, is he successful? Not if integrity is something he values. Achievement does not always equal success.
But maybe the most common mistake we make is to become so focused on our goals that we forget why we’re chasing them in the first place. As the late cartoonist/philosopher Walt Kelly once observed, “Too soon we breast the tape, and too late we realize the fun lay in the running.” Here’s a tip that we can all benefit from: No matter how busy you are, no matter how crazy things have become, no matter how bad (or good) things have gotten, make a point to look around every now and then and enjoy the scenery. A few times a day, just stop what you’re doing, and reflect on the positive things in your life. Think you don’t have any? Think again. Even in the darkest night, the proverbial candle glows. You just have to look for it.