How do you know if you’ve succeeded? I belong to several groups, one of which is Toastmasters. Every July, we have to fill out a success plan that we follow through out the year. It includes the number of people we want to join our group, because the more the merrier. It includes how many educational awards our members will receive. It will include the number of leadership projects we will be involved in, and a responsibility to the group of our efforts at administrative duties such as collecting dues, electing officials, etc, etc. Each of those activities is assigned points, and if you get enough points your club becomes Distinguished. Ooooo! Ahhhh! Becoming a Distinguished club is how the International organization recognizes success, and you get a nice certificate and a ribbon for your banner. But is it success? In many of the clubs I belong to, success is defined as having a good time learning how to best communicate, learning to work together on projects, and improving our speaking and leading skills. There are no points here, it’s a kind of intrinsic value. There are cases, then, where the success of the group as measured by the group doesn’t match up with the ideal measurement in the International group.
Another group defines success as winning singing contests. Another compares numbers on a leader board. Another group looks at the box office receipts to see if they made more than they spent. According to Tom Hopkins, sales guru, “Success is the continuous journey toward the achievement of pre-determined, worthwhile goals.” You noticed the continuous portion didn’t you? In this scenario, as you get closer and closer to attaining those goals, new ones appear. The person you become to attain your goals is able to see further and to understand the past more clearly.
When I was on vacation with my family years ago, we went to Glacier National Park. One of the hikes you could take was Iceberg Lake, but it was 8 km one way! Since everything in Glacier Park is gorgeous, we didn’t feel like we had to go the whole way to the end of the trail and could turn around when we got tired. The first part of the trail was a pretty steep climb, but it was not a long climb and when we got to the top of the trail’s 1st incline, the view was tremendous! The trail then was pretty level and we caught our breath as we continued. Then we turned a corner and the view was completely different. There was a riot of wild flowers up and down on both sides of the trail. The smell was intense and amazing, so we kept going. Suddenly we found ourselves in a pine forest with birdsong and the sound of the wind in the trees, and it was cool and inviting, so we continued on. There was another climb, but it was gradual, and there was the sound of a little brook and all those cute marmots. As we sat down for a rest, we looked back on the trail and the sight of the area we had just hiked looked different than when we were on it. We hadn’t been able to see the waterfall, or the swooping birds or the eagles until we’d reached our current location. We looked down the trail and wondered if it would look different on our way back. Just as we were deciding whether or not to continue to the lake, other hikers came back and were exclaiming how beautiful the lake was and it wasn’t far. We shrugged our shoulders and said, “Why not?” and went further on the trail. The rock formations were spectacular, and the flora and fauna were breathtaking. Then we got to the lake. It was GREEN and it had a cute little iceberg in the middle of it. The breeze coming off the lake was cold and refreshing. At that point, I promised myself I would bring my family to this one day. We turned around and headed back to the head of the trail, and things indeed looked different going the other way. After we descended the last part of the trail and returned to our hotel, we crashed and slept. We got up and had something to eat about 8:00 PM having not taken food on our hike and working off our breakfast about 1/3 of the way into the hike. This was in 1972. I did indeed take my family in 1996, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered, but the lake was completely covered in ice instead of having a little iceberg in the middle.
Each goal we achieved on this 1966 hike made us anxious to continue, even though we hadn’t brought anything to eat and my brothers and I were bottomless pits when it came to food. We’d say, “OK, we will walk over to the place where the path turns and turn around.” When we got there, it was beautiful, but around the corner was something even more spectacular. We took stock of our situation and weighed the hunger and fatigue and heat to see if it was worth the effort to continue. Then we continued.
It works the same way in life. As we approach our goals, we do not approach an ending location, we come up on a new view, a new set of possibilities. Our hike was a success, and we enjoyed it immensely, but we didn’t know at the time that it was also significant. This hike was significant to me because any time I came across a hardship, I thought of the hike and remembered that the journey was totally worth it. It has become a metaphor for my life. I have made other hikes in my life–too many to count. But only this hike has proved significant.
In your life, there are many events, conversations, thoughts, goals, hardships and relationships, but some are significant and some are not. Significance for you is the change it makes in your perspective, your life’s direction, or the way you think. Significance from you is how you affect other people’s perspective, direction and the way they think. In any occurrence, someone will be affected, and someone will effect a change. At any point in time, you don’t know if you are the catalyst or the person being affected. Something to think about…