One of life’s issues that engender so much interest is success. Success is something everyone craves but only a few seem to achieve. The desire for success by all and the low achievement rate by those that desire it has made some people redefine what success really is. Dr. Martin Seligman of University of Pennsylvania distinguished between success and excellence based on his perception that the focus on success has caused so much frustration for too many a people. He opined that success is something you achieve in comparison to others whilst excellence is your achievement relative to your potential. According to him, whilst success can only be achieved by a few, everyone can achieve excellence.
On the face of it, Dr. Seligman’s definitions are okay if only people’s realization of their potential will propel them to action; in which case they start seeking excellence. However, empirical evidence shows that this is not so; mediocrity seems more ingrained in many people’s psyche that a mere change in nomenclature will not bring about the required attitudinal changes. As a matter of fact, I believe a bit of peer pressure is good to get off the couch. I’ll, therefore, equate success and excellence, as defined by Dr. Seligman, by personifying success. My take is that success is personal. You are as successful as you think. After all, a right-thinking man should not deceive himself.
It is indeed a challenge to succeed. Being able to meet the 5 basic needs of man (it’s no longer 3): food, clothing, shelter, education and medical, in the modern world is no mean feat. When you add evolving basic needs like transportation and telecommunication, the stakes are much higher. Your ability to meet these enlarged basic needs can be very challenging that your meeting them on a sustainable basis makes you a successful person.
Facing the challenge
The scripture says, “As a man thinks, so is he”. Therefore, in dealing with the challenges of success, the starting point is to think good thoughts. Is it any wonder Christians are advised to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable? Because success starts with the kind of thoughts we entertain, people say success is a thing of the mind. I agree. You can’t achieve what you can’t imagine. Having the right mindset is of utmost importance to overcoming the success challenge.
God had to deal with Joshua’s mindset after the death of Moses. After God reminded him about the promise of the Promised Land (getting there would constitute success for Joshua and the people of Israel), He went to work on his mindset. God told Joshua – “No one will be able to stand up against you.…… As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5, NIV). The climax was when God said to him: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
It is compelling to say that there is good success and there is bad success. With good success you add value to others by what you do whereas in achieving bad success, you harm your fellow man with your actions. This is why armed robbers, dupes and drug barons cannot be called successful people, no matter the financial resources at their disposal. Aristotle said “man’s ultimate desire is happiness.” I believe this is the Achilles’ heel of those that have bad success. They are denied the final reward for all human efforts – happiness. You cannot create wealth by causing harm to others and hope to derive happiness from your substance. This also applies to actors, actresses, musicians, film producers and directors who promote lewdness on our TV screens. If you don’t agree with me, take time to watch “Pain behind the fame” on Silverbird Television.
Basic rudiments of success
A review of the commands given Joshua, as quoted above, brings up two critical requirements for success: good thoughts and actions. Joshua was advised to meditate continually on the word of God and also to be careful to do all that is written therein. Meditation on God’s word brings about the renewing of mind. Mind renewal in turn brings about changes in the thoughts we entertain. Finally, Godly thoughts lead to good actions. This corroborates Zig Ziglar’s statement: “To change a man’s performance, change the picture he’s seeing.” In the final analysis, we see with our mind. The thoughts we entertain invariably lead to us action. That’s where the miracle starts. Jim Rohn said “affirmations without discipline leads to delusion”. There’s nothing wrong with affirming what you desire but until you do something about your desires they never see the light of day. It takes a disciplined activity to produce a miracle called success.
Someone said the Bible is full of ‘bewares’ and ‘beholds’. Beware connotes negative results to avoid and behold depicts positive examples to follow. For instance, you must beware of the lifestyle of characters like Cain,Lot, King Saul, Judas Iscariot amongst others. On the other hand, behold the exemplary life of patriarchs like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Apostle Paul, just to mention a few. These are some of the people we should imitate because, through faith and patience, they inherited what they were promised. It is in meditating on the qualities of the above patriarchs that our minds are renewed and we begin to think the right kinds of thoughts. These thoughts will result in us taking the right actions that will lead to us to good success.
Meditating on God’s word is foundational to tackling the success challenge because it underscores how we perceive ourselves. There’s no better feeling than knowing that God is on your side. It is said that understanding self-worth is the beginning of progress. Jim Rohn said: “Success is not something you pursue. It is something you attract by becoming an attractive person.” Constant meditation on God’s word has the capacity to make us attractive to success.
Self-worth will keep you focused in the face of adversity. The result of entertaining Godly thought is that it propels you to do something. Anything you start to do as a consequence of divinely motivated thoughts would be mocked by others because it will usually not make sense to them. You, therefore, need to believe in yourself (have self-worth) for you to keep going. The reason people will mock you is because they have seen many people start new ventures only to quit a few months or years down the road. So they naturally assume you are one of the quitters. However, when your venture outlives their defined time period, they begin to take you seriously and before you know it they become your fans.
In conclusion, you need good thoughts, self-worth, disciplined activity (good actions), and focus to overcome the success challenge. Whatever your hands find to do, you will succeed in it if you faint not. The scripture says, “We should not be weary in well doing because we shall reap in due season, if we don’t faint”.