The Factors To Achieve Success and Happiness

The art of appreciation

by Jayaram V

Arun and Amrit are both brothers in their late fifties. They were brought up in the same house, educated in the same institutions, learned practically under the same teachers, and they both majored in medicine. However, after completing their education, Arun married the daughter of a rich local businessperson and settled in the USA. He is now a renowned surgeon with huge investments in the U.S. and India.

Amrit, the other brother went to Uganda, after the fall of Idi Amin, inspired by the vision of Gandhi, and remained there. He married a British nurse and settled in a town in northern Uganda, where he found an increasing incidence of AIDS. He set up a local clinic to help the poor. His father was not very pleased with him, but his mother was proud of her son. Last time when I met Arun he told me that his brother's wife, the nurse, left him for good and settled in London with her teenage son.

Now, what happened in case of the two brothers? What motivated them to follow different paths and live different lives? Their parents imparted them the same values, but somehow one saw a great value in wealth and prosperity and the other in philanthropy and humanitarian service. It is difficult, or even incorrect, to judge them based upon their actions and decisions, or compare and contrast them to determine which of them is a better human being. The one who went to the USA also helps the poor. He built a hospital in his native town in India and gave a large donation to the school where he studied. After he left for Uganda, his brother did not maintain much contact with India. He visits India occasionally to see his mother. The two brothers probably developed their own vision and values according to their perceptions and went their individual ways.

Different people pursue different goals in their lives and hold different values and beliefs. How they build their lives depend upon their aims and motives, which in turn depend upon their values and beliefs, which may be shaped by both internal and external factors. While many factors contribute to the success and happiness of people and lead them on different paths, we can discern in them some factors, which are common and universal and help people in different circumstances to cope with their problems and pursue their goals, even though they lead dissimilar lives. The following are a few such factors, which help people to achieve success and happiness, irrespective of their age, place, or gender. They are aptitude, attitude, acceptance, direction, diligence, discipline, learning and values. You may even call them the building blocks of life.

Aptitude

Imagine in your school days you had a friend who was a mathematical genius, who could crunch the numbers easily or solve difficult theorems, but his parents forced him to become an IT professional because they wanted him to marry a girl from a rich family who could afford a huge dowry and help him to settle in the USA. This is an imaginary story, but if you were from India, you would be familiar with the theme. Many youngsters pursue their education and careers according to the instructions of their parents or the demands of society, rather than their natural talents. Aptitude means what comes to you naturally, or what you are inclined to do or spend the rest of your life without inner resistance. Some people have an aptitude for science, some for mathematics, some for some artistic activity and some for business.

Your aptitude may arise from your early influences or by your beliefs and interests. It is a combination of your skills, abilities, interest, and natural disposition. The earlier you discover your aptitude, the better it is for you. Many people become confused about their basic aptitudes because of parental expectations, desires, and social conditioning. You have better chances of achieving success, fulfillment and happiness if you pursue a career according to your basic aptitude rather than what others tell you or expect from you. If you set your goals according to the demands and expectations of your parents, or society, you may still achieve success. However, you may not be happy as you suffer from conflicts and dissatisfaction with your choices and find it difficult to come to terms with yourself. It may even affect your marriage and relationships as you vent your negative feelings upon others.

Attitude

Attitude is how you feel and think about a thing, a person, a process, an action, a goal, a value system, a belief, or an ideology. If you are inclined to feel positively about it, your attitude is positive, and if you are inclined to feel negatively it is negative. Since both your heart and mind shape your attitude, it greatly influences your choices, goals, desires, and decisions, and how you react and respond to various situations in your life. If you do not feel positive about yourself, you will be unhappy and depressed. If you do not feel positive about others, you may avoid their company and prefer staying alone. If you do not feel positive about your career or goals, you may not put your heart and soul in performing your tasks.

Therefore, you should know your feelings and thoughts, before you choose your goals, make decisions about your education, career, marriage, and other milestones in your life. If you think that you do not have positive attitude about certain things in your life which are vital to your success and happiness, you must cultivate them by changing your thinking and beliefs or by reexamining your perceptions. You should also examine your attitude towards success itself. If you think negatively about wealth, money, success, or successful people, you may probably sabotage your own success and avoid those conditions subconsciously. In such cases you have to reset your thinking and values.

Acceptance

Acceptance means how far you are comfortable with your self-image, your relationship with the world, your goals, your circumstances, and the general direction of your life. If you are comfortable with your self-image, you will not be guided by the opinions of others to set your goals or to pursue them, and you will not be easily daunted by others' criticism. You evaluate situations according to your best judgment and act accordingly. Acceptance also means whether you accept your circumstances, relationships, the nature of the world in which you live and the uncertainties of life. When you set goals, you should know whether you accept not only the goals but also the conditions that they might manifest. Acceptance also means how far you are willing to change, sacrifice your values and beliefs, or accept what you cannot change. Acceptance denotes your level of comfort with the things you seek or pursue and accept what you cannot achieve. For example, you cannot sustain your success, if you are unwilling to accept the challenges your success may manifest or the failures that you may have to experience while pursuing it. Your happiness does not depend upon your success as much as it depends upon your acceptance of it and the circumstances and conditions related to it. If you are successful, but not happy about it, it means that you have not accepted your success or the life it manifested.

Your self-image consists of both your strengths and weaknesses. It is necessary that you accept them both as part of your reality and deal with them according to your best judgment and goals. If you are uncomfortable with yourself, you will undervalue your abilities, lower your expectations and underachieve, or you may overestimate your weakness and expect failures and disappointments. You must also accept the ever-changing reality and the uncertainty, to which you are subject because what you consider your strength or an asset may become a weakness or a liability in some situations. For example, if you are knowledgeable and intelligent and find yourself working in a team of mediocre and apathetic people, they may intentionally subject you to groupthink and undermine your strengths or discount your value to the team. In such cases, your strengths become your weaknesses.

Direction

The direction is the course of progress that you achieve in your life. How do you know that you are progressing in the right direction? If you are lost in a desert or a forest, you may walk for days or hours and finally without your knowing may end up walking in the exact opposite direction of the place from where you began. It may happen when are not familiar with the terrain, and do not know in which direction you are moving. Sometimes, you may keep moving forward, but if you face a major obstacle such as a deep gorge or a steep hill, you may have to backtrack and return to the spot from where you began. Experiences such as these prove that neither time nor action ensures progress unless you know where you are headed.

John Dike, a baker, spent nearly six years running a bakery shop owned by his friend who lived abroad. His friend paid him a monthly salary and an annual bonus if the shop made profit. John did not save enough money during the six years. He toiled in the bakery, thinking that when his friend returned he would make him a business partner, and they both could continue the business. When recession hit, his friend decided to sell his shop, unable to pay for the mortgage. The new owners did not want to run a bakery, but open a jewelry shop. John ultimately managed to find a job as a baker in another bakery, but his dream of opening a business was dashed to the ground. For six years he kept working, but made little progress in securing his future, as he paid little attention to the direction in which he progressed. He was stuck in the routine and happy with it hoping that at some point in future things would change.

Like John, many people move in circles. They toil their whole lives, but hardly make any progress in the right direction. To know whether you are moving in the right direction, you have to fix goals and milestones and monitor your progress. You must verify your feelings against the values you cherish and know whether you are in alignment with them. You must know intuitively what to do when you are stuck in the same routine, or feel that you are not able to fulfill the purpose of your life. You may change your plans, methods and strategies, but to remain motivated your direction must be aligned with your goals and your values.

Diligence

I knew a couple in India who were poor and had little education. However, both were good cooks and enjoyed cooking. They had a dream to own a restaurant. When they got married, they decided to make it happen. They borrowed money from a relation and started an eatery in a makeshift house in the outskirts of the town where they lived. Every day they would wake up around 3 o' clock in the morning and work until late in the night. In the daytime, they would take rest alternatively for two or three hours so that they could stay awake in the night and do the preparation for the next day. They followed the routine for two years until they were able to hire additional hands and find time for their children and themselves. Last time I met them few years ago, they owned three restaurants in the same town and employed about twenty people. They were also planning to start an upscale restaurant in the heart of the town. They told me that every weekend they served free food to the poor at a local temple, and once in a month they fed the children of a nearby orphanage. They have earned a good name and respect for the quality they maintain and the service they give. They are hired as caterers for most of the marriages and functions held in the town. Theirs is a fine example of how hard work pays off and contributes to success, even if you have some limitations such as poor education or lack of money.

Successful people share one common feature. They are hard working. There is no substitute for hard work. For success in any field, you need persistent effort, even if it means pain and discomfort, so that when opportunities come into your way you can readily make use of them. You can put your talents and skills to right use only through hard work. Whether you are born in a poor family or a rich family, without hard work, you cannot achieve success. All successful people begin their career by working for hours in the pursuit of their goals, improving their skills, or looking for the one big break that would change their lives. They work even more after they achieve success to sustain it, perfect their methods, maintain quality, achieve excellence, improve their performance, or stay ahead in competition.

However, hard work alone does not guarantee success or happiness. Your goals, methods, decisions, and values are also important. Fraudsters and scam artistes also work overtime to achieve their ends, but in the end pay dearly for their nefarious actions. Behind every true success you will find the contribution of hard working people. Hard work is the hub of the wheel of success and progress. It is the only way to make miracles happen or invite luck into our lives.

Discipline

Discipline does not mean that you have to wake up early in the morning, do meditation and stick to your daily routine. Many successful people are disciplined this way, with rigid daily programs of their own, such as waking up early, doing yoga or exercise, eating certain types of food at specific times and focusing on the demands of their profession. However, there are also some successful people, who wake up late, but manage to live well and achieve success. A lot depends upon the nature of your job, and what you intend to do in your life. If you work for an overseas company on the other side of the planet, you may have to keep yourself awake in the night and work until morning hours. Therefore, your sleeping habits depend upon your circumstances or your personal choices.

Discipline truly means controlling and regulating your thoughts and actions and sticking to an action plan or a specific path until the end to produce desired results. A disciplined person leads a structured, systematic, and orderly life performing actions according to plans and rules, staying focused, and adhering to values and principles, whether he is watched by others or not. Discipline gives you the strength to match your thoughts and goals with your actions and persevere in your effort despite problems and challenges. You can practice discipline either personally to improve your wellbeing or professionally to improve the chances of your success and happiness.

Learning

As Dolly Parton wrote in her book, Dream More: celebrate the dreamer in you, learning is easier if you can read, but real learning is all about experience, how you look at your actions and circumstances and draw lessons from them. You can learn a lot by reading and a lot more by observing your actions and others' actions, and the world in general. The inferences you draw from your daily experiences can give you an insight into yourself and others, and improve both your common sense and wisdom. Your learning never stops. You keep learning your whole life. Even after you achieve mastery in any field, you still have a lot of scope to learn.

In the present day world, the importance of learning cannot be undermined. Progress in science and technology is happening at an astounding pace. Companies all over the world are forced to introduce new designs and products to satisfy their loyal, but demanding, and over expectant customers. Thousands of books and research papers are published every day. Thousands of articles are posted on blogs and websites every hour. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, engineer, tax consultant, accountant, or employee, you cannot survive the competition and succeed in the overcrowded markets, without learning continuously to keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date. Learning improves you as a person by improving your knowledge, expertise, skills, productivity, and creativity. By learning from your failures and mistakes, you can also avoid making the same mistakes. You learn better when you cultivate openness, humility, and interest, and apply what you learn to the situations in your life.

Values

Your values are your heart's deepest desires. They let you know what you want to be, what the purpose of your life should be, what you should cherish dearly, where you should be going and how you should regard your successes and failures, or interpret your feelings and experiences. Values help you to find direction and keep you motivated in reaching your goals. Your values are different from your goals. Your goals are the endpoints of your actions or their final results, whereas values provide you with the impetus and the direction to reach there. Your goals have limited scope in the sense that once you achieve them you can forget them, whereas you keep following your values for the rest of your life. Your values give you the strength and purpose to continue even if you fail to achieve your goals. They help you to keep you going when the going gets tough.

John Chris had a passion for sports goods and opened a retail shop to sell sports memorabilia to the local fans. Unfortunately, his business did not pick up as he had to compete with major retailers, local museums, and internet websites that operated on minimum profit margins. John was not disheartened. He analyzed his failure and learned from his mistakes. He took personal responsibility for what happened as he did not foresee competition from the internet retailers and did not anticipate that in a recession people would not like to spend money on sports memorabilia. His failure did not deter him. He talked to many people and explored various options before he decided to open a gym, which he thought was immune to both the internet and the recession. After careful planning and with the help of a few partners, he opened the gym choosing a location where there was no competition from other gyms within the radius of a few miles. Soon the new business picked up as customers in the area signed up taking advantage of the attractive deals he offered. John was able to absorb his business failure and emerge successfully because he believed in the value of perseverance and learning from his mistakes. He did not feel crushed by his failure but challenged by it. He learned from his experience and moved on. He opened a new business with due diligence, learning from his mistakes without blaming others or end up feeling resentful.

Your values thus help you when you need direction or regain your balance. They are an integral part of your character and personality. Since they reflect your heart's deepest desires, they influence your emotions and feelings. They are also important to your peace and happiness, because you experience them not only when you achieve your goals but also when you are connected to your values. In addition, in adversity and difficulties they provide you with reasons and a purpose to continue and persevere. Thus, your chances of survival and success under any circumstances depend upon your values.

Suggestions for Further Reading

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