We all aspire to a great life and career. And, we consider that, as success. Isn’t that true? The challenge is, how do we make it happen? Here are three simple questions, that will help, you do just that. Don’t let the simplicity of the questions lull you into underestimating them! Do keep in mind what Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!”

These are questions you could ask yourself now and then; maybe once in a few months or once in a year, or maybe even once in a few years. You can ask yourself, these questions, right through your entire life. And, with every asking, you will find the answers become clearer and richer.

Let us now move on to the three questions. While sharing the questions, I am also sharing real-life examples and events from your life. That will help you relate to the question as well as trigger thought processes that will help you find the answers by yourself, for yourself!

Question 1: What is your definition of success?

You may wonder, why do I need my own definition of success? Isn’t there a universal definition of success? Pause for a moment to reflect on this. Think of all the friends and family you know well. While you do share some common preferences with them, you do have different preferences too, be it profession or lifestyle. If every one of us, has our own unique mix of preferred career and life wouldn’t our definition of success, too be unique and different?

What is your definition of success? Can you put it down in about 2 to 3 sentences or about 25 words? Give it a try. Most of us would have difficulty putting down even 2 to 3 words, in the first attempt. Why is that so? Is it because we don’t know what our own definition of success is? No, that is not the case. We all do have an intuitive sense of what success in life and career, means to us. It is just that we have never got around to consciously articulating it. That is the gap. By asking yourself this question time and again, you will be plugging this gap. Further, the reflections will give you an opportunity, to update it, as you progress and evolve during the course of your life.

Let me now prove to you that you do have an intuitive sense of what success in life and career means to you. Here are three simple examples, from your life.

  1. Think of all those uninspiring subjects that you laboriously ploughed through in school and at the university. Where did you get the motivation and grit to do that? Wasn’t it the intuitive realisation that if you wanted to have the kind of life and career you aspired for, you had to get through school and university?
  2. Do you recall all those non-academic initiatives, you pursued so assiduously in your younger years; be it collecting stamps or trying out a sport or a musical instrument or something else? Where did you get the motivation to do this? Wasn’t it the intuitive realisation that if you wanted to have the kind of life and career you aspired for, you needed to go beyond just academics and learn other things?
  3. Just look back on all those different kinds of people, with whom you established lasting relationships; be they relatives, friends, classmates, or colleagues. Where did you get the motivation to make the effort to cultivate all these relationships? Wasn’t it the intuitive realisation that if you wanted to have the kind of life and career you aspired for, you had to build bridges with others?

These three examples, from your own life, would have convinced you that you do have deep within you, a definition of “success in life and career” that is specific and unique to you. By asking yourself the simple question, “What is my definition of success” now and then, throughout your life, you will help you gradually bring alive and articulate, what you have sensed all along intuitively! This ability to articulate, will give you a sense of direction, well into the future, both in your career and life.

As you go through life, you may find, your definition changing or may be even wandering a bit. That is ok. All that is happening is, as you go through more and more life experiences, your inner system is picking up more and more data, information, and patterns and updating your definition of success! Your life and career are dynamic. So too your definition of success in life and career.

Question 2: How well do you know yourself and others?

Let us first focus on the first part of the question, i.e. knowing yourself.

How well do you know yourself?

Of course, you know more about yourself, your background, and your present status, better than anyone else. But then, a lot of this valuable knowledge is intuitive. Asking this question will help you bring this knowledge to the surface. You will begin to understand what makes you, uniquely you! Here are four points to ponder on. Each of them will help you get to know yourself so much better.

  1. What are the triggers that motivate or demotivate you?
  2. Do you recognise your own moods, the ups, and the downs, as you experience them?
  3. How do you recover from setbacks, life throws at you now and then? Do you seek help or sulk, persist or give up, try new things or do the same thing?
  4. What are the values, you display most of the time, through your actions?

A robust way to find answers to the first three is the following simple exercise.

  • Recall recent occasions when you felt highly motivated? Ask yourself, what triggered your motivation? Similarly, recall recent occasions when you felt highly demotivated? Again ask yourself, what triggered your demotivation?
  • Take recent occasions when you felt you were at your best and felt positive and optimistic? Similarly, consider occasions when you were at your worst and felt negative and pessimistic? Were you aware of these feelings, as you were experiencing them? Or, did you become aware of them only later?
  • When was the last time when you experienced a big setback? How did you recover? What did you do?

Even for the fourth point, the values you display through your actions, the answer lies within you. Here, fortunately, structured help is readily available. All you need to do is visit a well-researched and robust on-line survey site. The survey is offered free of cost, by the University of Pennsylvania and is known as the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. Here is the LINK.  Do take the survey whenever you have 40 minutes to spare and then reflect on the results it throws up. Most users, after reflecting on the results for a day or two, have come to two broad conclusions.

  • It gave them, fresh and useful insights, about themselves.
  • The results are by and large, reflective of reality.

Do check it out, for yourself. Invest just forty minutes of your time, and get to know yourself, so much better.

How well do you know others?

Close your eyes and think of three people, you believe know well; let us say one each from your family, friends circle, and work. Try and answer the following questions, about each of them.

  1. What are the triggers that motivate or demotivate them?
  2. Do you recognise their moods, the ups, and the downs, as they experience them?
  3. How do they recover from setbacks? What have you observed them do, seek help or sulk, persist or give up, try new things, or try the same thing?
  4. What are the values, they display most often, through their actions?

I am sure you spotted these four points as mirror images or externalised versions of the four points in the preceding section. Yes, it is so and it ought to be so. Others are also like you and me and therefore the same framework remains valid. Only the perspective is different; external instead of internal. The methodology is also the same. Use real-life instances you have observed first hand.

An interesting aside!  You will find that as you get to know yourself more and more, you will get to know others, better and better! Studies have shown that we humans, use our understanding of ourselves, as a window to understand others. Therefore, as the window gets bigger and bigger, you will understand others better and better.

Question 3: How do you read the world around you and respond?

We live in a dynamic world. Everything is ever-changing, be it in our personal or professional lives creating an endless stream of opportunities and challenges. We read all these as they happen and respond in real-time. How well we read impacts the appropriateness (qualitatively and quantitatively) of our responses. To understand this it is useful to assess yourself on the following.

  1. Are you able to synthesise in real-time, the data and narratives being thrown up all the time?
  2. When you sense gaps in information, do you ask simple questions to plug the gaps?
  3. Are you comfortable generating multiple solutions for every problem, even when some of the solutions may seem to contradict one another?
  4. Are you able to intuit the implications of these multiple solutions and then choose, what you believe would work best for you?
  5. Having made a decision, do you act with urgency?

If your answer is YES to all five you are in a great place. But, as is the case with most of us, your answers are also likely to be a mixture of Yes, No, and Maybe! The task then is to gradually convert the Maybe to Yes and No to Maybe?

Here you have none other than Albert Einstein to guide you. He observed, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” The guidance is clear. As you gain clarity on the problem (wherever your responses are Maybe and No), your intuition will throw up the solution, before long.

Now you may ask, what is the interrelationship between three questions. The answer is quite simple. The first question “What is your definition of success” is all about you setting a goal for yourself, as it appears to you at that stage in your life. The second question, “How well do you know yourself and others” is about your mobilising the most important support to pursue your goal, namely intra and interpersonal relationships. And the final and third question, “How do you read the world around you and respond”, is about how you navigate the journey; take all the twists and turns life throws your way and still achieve the goal you have set for yourself!

Summing up, you are fully justified in aspiring for success in life and your career. To make these aspirations happen, you need to act. Make a beginning right away. Ask yourself three simple questions.

What is my definition of success?

How well do I know myself and others?

How do I read the world around me and respond?

By : Ravi Santhanam for ZEUS

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