So what does success look like to you

Written by Robert Ashton | Updated: Sep 30 2007, 06:29am hrs
We all see success differently. Our aspirations are influenced by our upbringing, our environment, our image of ourselves and the people we live and work alongside. Success is not just about having more money, nor is it about simply feeling happy. Its deeper than that.

Theres been a lot of research carried out to find out what makes us feel successful. Perhaps the best known work is carried on by Abraham Maslow. He was a New York psychologist and academic who studied human behaviour in the first half of the last century. He summarised his work in what he called the hierarchy of needs. What he said was simple: without the basic needs covered, you wont have the time or inclination to worry about anything else. In order of importance, these are the things that made up his hierarchy of needs: Food, water and warmth this is all that matters when youre cold and hungry; Personal safety if you feel threatened, little else matters; Once fed and safe you begin to want to be with other people; With other people, you want to feel needed and respected; Once respected, you want to realise dreams and ambitions.

In our modern society, the chances are you are already at steps four or five on that list. Success then is really about feeling that you belong, that you are getting noticed, and that what you are doing is good for both you and the people around you. It sounds simple, but of course the complexities of life make it quite difficult.

There are ways to recognise why we all see things differently. Parents Like it or not, our parents outlook on life shapes our own. You might share their values and aspirations or rebel against them. Reflect on your parents attitudes and how they may have shaped your own. Place Where you are in the world will have a vast influence on the way you see things. Imagine being raised in New York or the Nile delta. Has your childhood environment altered your vision People many high achievers went to school with other high achievers and so were encouraged to be more competitive. Who amongst your playground peers has achieved a lot What can you learn from them Passions You might love skiing or hate the cold. You may enjoy showing pedigree dogs or have been bitten by a dog and detest them. What early experiences have shaped your passions Are you happy with this or do you want to challenge them Posture If you walk tall the world looks far bigger than if you slouch along looking just ahead of your feet. How you stand affects what you see. If youre not tall, think how it feels to be able to see above the crowd. Dont let your height hold you back. Prejudice your own prejudice as well as those of the people around you will shape your thinking. If you have prejudices, you need to confront and challenge them. Get yourself in front of the situation you dont like and find out the reality behind your prejudice. Politics Your political standpoint will provide a ready-made menu of attitudes and views you can subscribe to, or challenge. Sometimes its best to remain independent and make up your own mind. Look at some party manifestoes and compare them. Perception The way you see things may differ from how others view the same situation. You need to be understanding when perceptions vary and not try to impose your own view. Philosophy a word that embraces more than just religion. Your personal beliefs about life, death and spirituality shape your outlook. Theres no right or wrong philosophy. See how other peoples philosophies change the way they view the world. Proximity overcrowding makes a huge difference to our view of the world. Youll value other people more if there are less of them around you. Try spending time alone and then in a crowded place. Youre still you, but youll feel different in each situation.

Your cultural background also has a bearing on your outlook on life. This might create a conflict in your mind as you decide the balance between your heritage and your heart. Remember that you cannot turn your back on your past it makes you who you are. Neither can you alienate those who raised and love you. This can be a challenge if they were raised in a different part of the world to where they are raising you. Try to notice how cultural perspectives and traditions differ from place to place. If your older relatives see the world differently to you, try to understand why. Developing an appreciation of their viewpoint may help you shape your own.

(Extracted from The Life Plan by Robert Ashton, one of Pearsons recent publications)

10 Types of success

1) Material success: Money, cars, holidays, jewellery

2) Emotional success: Relationships, self esteem, contentment

3) Intellectual success: Learning, undestanding challenging

4) Spiritual success: Sense of purpose, belonging, reason

5) Physical success: Health, fitness, vitality, appearance

6) Commercial success: Enterprise growth, profit, reputation

7) Evangelical success: Influencing others, promoting your ideals

8) Environmental success: Home, garden, saving the planet

9) Time success: Longevity, time management

10) Collective success: The product of effective teamwork