Ralph Waldo Emerson was a powerful voice of the 19th-century transcendentalist movement, advocating for exploring deeper truths and greater understanding. He believed that success could not be defined in terms of money or power but rather through living life with integrity. This meant living by one's standards and values, making decisions based on what is personally meaningful rather than what would only bring temporary satisfaction.
Emerson believed that success should be determined by an individual's personal accomplishments and contributions to society rather than external validation or material possessions. He encouraged people to discover their purpose in life, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Emerson also asserted that success is accessible to everyone, regardless of social or economic status. To Emerson, success is achieved when a person can reflect on their life and feel content with pursuing what is meaningful to them.
This idea of redefining success has been echoed by many contemporary thinkers, such as the philosopher Alan Watts, who wrote that "we should not measure our lives by what we have achieved or acquired, but by how much we have enjoyed and appreciated life along the way." Ultimately, success should be seen as a lifelong journey of growth and discovery rather than merely a final destination.
One of the biggest obstacles to personal success is our ego. Our egos are conditioned by society, often leading us to believe that success can only be achieved through external validation or material possessions instead of our own individual accomplishments and contributions. This can make it difficult for us to listen to our inner voice, which knows its own truth and what is truly meaningful to us. To find true success, we must be willing to take risks and make decisions in line with our own personal values. However, it's impossible to identify our values without self-awareness because we will instead, and unknowingly, depend on the ethics, morals, and values of our society to determine what is right and wrong. Without a concrete grasp of our morals and values, we risk getting caught up in the group mentality that seeks to solve issues from the same source that created them. This is the same collective that defines and promotes superficial success—i.e., money, fame, etc.
Therefore, the key to success is being aware of our own values and having the courage to act on them. Once we have taken this step, we can begin to create a life that's meaningful and fulfilling—one that allows us to achieve true success and fulfillment. I encourage you to take some time to reflect and explore your inner world to discover what's truly meaningful to you. Then, make the decision to live your life in alignment with those values and find success on your own terms.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."