The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to evaluate success by listing accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. After all, in its simplest terms, success is getting what we want and most people want wealth and status.
Yet, as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will elude them if they do not have peace of mind, self-respect, and enduring loving relationships.
Peace of mind doesn’t preclude ambition or desire for material possessions or high position, but it assumes a fundamental foundation of contentment, gratitude, and pride — a belief that whatever one has is enough and an attitude of active appreciation for the good things in one’s life.
Feeling successful can generate satisfying emotions of self-worth, but feeling significant — that one’s life really matters – is much more potent. Peter Drucker, the great management guru, captured this idea when he wrote of the urge many high achievers have to “move beyond success to significance.”
The surprise for many is that one of the surest roads to significance is service. It doesn’t have to be of the Mother Teresa missionary variety. Parents who sacrifice their own comfort and pleasure for their children are performing service, as are teachers, public-safety professionals, members of the military, and volunteers who work for the common good.
In addressing graduates, Albert Schweitzer said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”