Friday, 4 January 2008

What Success Means

Late last night I listened to the news reports from the Iowa Caucuses. Senator John Edwards, a democratic candidate, was making a commitment to the American people to focus on making them successful. Of course, this is par for the course for any candidate for office.

Something he said made me sit up and listen. He defined the promised success in an interesting way. He talked about the many generations of Americans who had improved their country for their children. Implicit in this was the idea of leaving our children better off than us. From my perspective, this is an excellent definition of success.

Unfortunately, to many of us today our definition of success is short-term. Success means a job with higher pay and more status. Success means several expensive holidays to far flung locations. Success means the large and luxurious car. In short, we define our success by the accumulation of consumer goods and by our ability to purchase yet more of them.

In a world that is resource constrained and that is suffering significant environmental damage due to our consumption, there may be a case for a new definition.

Perhaps John Edwards hit the nail on the head. Perhaps we should start to consider the future prosperity of our children when we think about success. For sure, we need to do all we can to maintain a stable environment and ample resources to allow our children and children's children to enjoy a peaceful and long life. Success for them will be impossible without this.

Following on from Jamal's challenge to reduce our carbon footprint, I'd like to issue this challenge; use the beginning of 2008 to re-evaluate your personal definition of success. Look at your decisions with a longer time frame in mind and make choices based on a balance of success now, and success in the future. Many businesses and individuals have already taken this challenge and are finding that change isn't painful, and very often brings huge benefits.

Time to take the challenge?