SUCCESS IS A most desirable thing and it is often defined differently by different people. In fact it may change at various stages of the same person’s life. What does success actually mean? How can it be achieved? How would YOU define ‘success’ for yourself?
How Have You Defined Your Life Goals?
Is success, for you, achieved by:
Having the most luxurious extravagant home?
The best looking, newest, fastest or most technologically advanced car?
The happiest ideal family with beautiful, healthy, charismatic and well- mannered children?
The healthiest fittest body with the most stylish attire that money can buy?
The most highly paid rewardingly satisfying job?
Being loved by a rich, gorgeous, intelligent and compassionately loving spouse?
Some of the factors mentioned above equate to gaining material possessions, or, they actually stem from a desire to please other people, and compete in the big bad cruel competitive societies that we all find ourselves in. Can success really be achieved by pleasing other people? Some of us may want or have all of the above, and others of us may pass through life being satisfied and content with just one of those things.
Re-Examining Success and Inner Happiness
If a person doesn’t have inner peace and happiness within themselves they could spend a lifetime looking for this self-inflicted illusion of success. Many of us spend our lives looking for the next biggest challenge or hurdle and after we’ve reached it and attained it we are left with an anti-climax or empty feeling of hollowness.
The illusion or mirage of success and its acquisition can leave us reeling. Many years or decades may pass chasing this phantom of success and playing in the rat race, until wisdom or guidance befalls us and our understanding deepens and we begin to look for a greater meaning to life than mere existence.
We Can Re-Apportion Our Priorities
Each of us has the choice to step out of this box and look at the bigger picture. Surely we can plan, live and prioritize our lives as we see fit and find our own version of what truly would make us happy and give us everlasting success. Undoubtedly we are each unique in our thoughts and desires.
The reason why we want something is just as important as what we want. Intentions matter. Why do we want to be successful? Is this because we equate being successful with being happy? What makes us truly happy?
Focusing Our Thinking
In order to evaluate ourselves, we well might want to plan our lives and categorize our goals. Deciding and establishing our goals in life is the first step to striving to meet and achieve our targets. Islam encourages us to think, ponder, question and analyze.
Prophet Ibrâhîm—who is well known and respected in the three monotheistic major world faiths that exist today—reached his status through thinking and contemplating about life. He went against the tide and followed a faith different to that of his forefathers.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would regularly contemplate, think and look for answers in the cave of Ḥirâ’ away from the busy city of Makkah. Evaluating, questioning, planning and prioritizing are vital for inner peace and long term success.
Getting a Handle on Our Goals and Targets
One such method is dividing and recognizing all our actions, and classifying our objectives into the three following categories. We want to fill our lives with the tasks with which we are happy, and to evaluate whether they fall into our grand scheme of direction in life. The three categories are:
- Short-term goal with short-term gain:
Examples include having hair colored or going for a pedicure every month. The effects of these actions last a short amount of time but they may be very important to us, so that we can live our daily lives feeling confident and staying well. Having these kinds of short-term goals is fine, and in fact—depending on the reasons why we are doing them—they can contribute to our larger, more long-term goals.
- Short term goal with long-term gain:
An example of this may be finishing high school or a college degree. Although this may be a relatively short-term goal, it contributes to our goals in our larger scheme of things. For these kinds of goals we can find motivation by visualizing and focusing on the longer-term picture of where we want to see ourselves.
- Long-term goal with long-term gain:
This is where many people stumble and don’t have a fixed idea of where they are heading. Unless they are achieving and struggling for a greater cause or unless have found inner peace and happiness, they continue to look for this euphoric phenomenon of happiness. Unless we know the reason why we are doing something and unless we are content with that reason fitting into our bigger picture, we stumble, struggle and wander emotionally, lost and confused at the first sign of hardship.
To be continued, Inshâ’Allah…