Success starts on the inside

Character is what will carry you through the inevitable ups and downs of life

When we think about success, it is very easy to focus on external achievements. We think about receiving a promotion at work, or getting on the property ladder, maybe getting married, having children, or accomplishing all manner of life goals.

If we achieve these external successes, this can be very reassuring, simply because these things are so tangible. We all have a natural tendency to gravitate towards any understanding of success that can be easily measured.

But as we’ve seen from the outset of this series, the foundation of success actually lies with embracing who we are, above and beyond what we ever do or don’t achieve in life. In other words, the foundation for success is something we simply cannot measure. And that can be disconcerting.

Beyond that though, even if we start to build a successful life upon that healthy foundation, external achievements are not the only measures of success.

It may not be in vogue to think about these things, but success is a much about the development of our character as it is the accomplishing of our goals.

It was Jesus who said, ‘What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’

Albert Einstein, in a similar vein, said, ‘Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.’

Who we are on the inside is just as important — if not more so — than what we do on the outside.

Making the most of our talents and abilities, developing our skills and knowledge, is all vital and important. It is our character that will shape how far we go in life.

I don’t mean character in a narrow and limited moralistic sense here.

Though immoral behaviour will certainly undermine us in life, I am mainly referring here to how characteristics like resilience, humility, self-control, and other-mindedness will do more to help us go far in life than simply pursuing our external life goals directly.

If we were to invest more of our time measuring the success of our lives in terms of how resilient, humble, self-controlled, and other-minded we are, we would find ourselves in a much stronger and healthier place to pursue the external success that everyone gets to see.

It is so easy to look at someone we deem to be successful and assume it is solely because of their talent. But talent is never enough. It may give you a head start, but it won’t sustain you. Character is what will carry you through the inevitable ups and downs of life.

So when we think about success, let’s not be so quick to only see the external achievements. Let’s think about who we are and the type of person we are becoming. It is our character more than anything else that will shape the trajectory of our lives and determine how successful we will be.


All posts in this series:

Part One: The foundation for success
Part Two: Liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it
Part Three:
Success starts on the inside
Part Four:
Defining success

Liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it

Defining success