Finding Success in Meaning
In life and in business, obstacles faced often weaken our resolve to continue. How does one re-energise in the face of setbacks, is what 99FM’s MYD Smart asked Namibian Industrial Psychologist, Coen Welsh, who prepared this short guide on how chasing success instead of meaning results in us losing both.
Finding success in meaning by Coen Welsh
This year has started with a bang. Many people have forgotten what their New Year’s Resolutions are. Can you remember yours? When I sat down to write this, I realised I can’t remember mine. This got me thinking, what is it that really makes us successful? There are so many books out there that promise a quick fix or a recipe for success, but all of them can’t be right. This makes me wonder if any of them are right.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.”
Pardon the long quote, but I believe it bears repeating. Victor Frankl in his seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning wrote: “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
“Success is the unintended side effect of a personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself. This is crucial in finding happiness. In various research studies (including my own) the effect of meaningfulness cannot be overstated.”
There are a few things that stand out in the quote above that needs to be unpacked a bit more. Frankl says that success is the unintended side effect of a [personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself]. This is crucial in finding happiness. In various research studies (including my own) the effect of meaningfulness cannot be overstated. Once you find meaningfulness in anything you do the other obstacles become easier to overcome.
The month of March celebrates our Independence. Think about the hardships and trials that the Fathers of this country had to endure to achieve this goal. It wasn’t fun; it wasn’t easy, but it was definitely a cause greater than any one individual. Using someone like Mother Theresa as another example. By modern standards (cash and status) she was not very successful at all. Yet by having meaning in what she did she is thought of as one of the most successful people who ever lived.
“We need to search for meaning. So this month, I challenge everyone out there to go out and find something worth doing.”
To conclude, in order for anyone to be successful we need to stop chasing money and status. We need to search for meaning. So this month, I challenge everyone out there to go out and find something worth doing. This is incidentally the reason why we forget our New Year’s Resolutions. It’s because they are not connected to something meaningful in our lives. In her book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington suggests the idea of a third metric of success. In the past we used to measure success by how much money and how much power you had. Her third metric rests on four pillars, namely, well- being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.
Therefore ask yourself the questions:
- How much time am I spending on my wellbeing? Do you go to the gym? Do you eat healthy? Do you limit sugar and alcohol intake?
- What am I doing to improve not only my knowledge about the world I live, but also my understanding of how things work and impact each other?
- Do I ever stop to smell the roses? We live in such a beautiful country. Do you ever notice the natural gifts created by God for our wonder and amazement.
4. Do I give enough of my time and effort to help others? It does not have to be cash or assets, but rather time and effort to help others.
About Coen Welsh
Coen is a qualified Industrial Psychologist with a master’s thesis focusing on the Antecedents and underlying Psychological Conditions predicting Employee Engagement. He has studied, lived and worked in London, Cairo, Pretoria and Namibia.
Coen is a founding trustee of Capacity Trust where he currently consults in the people and human resources space for a variety of organisations in Namibia ranging from private sector clients to government and SOE’s.