I promote fitness through writing, speaking and coaching the AARP Fat 2 Fit online community, yet my efforts to become fit are far from perfect. And if perfection were the standard against which my efforts were judged, while I might not classify my endeavor as a failed project, I could not claim total success either.
In fairness to me, given that I spent 40 years gaining weight and only the last few years promoting fitness and weight loss, I’m doing reasonably well. I also take comfort knowing that my example has contributed to others becoming more fit and possibly extending their lives.
Still, the nagging questions keep surfacing: How should I judge my efforts? What are my criteria?
When I tried to answer these questions, I realized I had only the vaguest notion of what constitutes success. Consequently, I began analyzing the nature of success and concluded the following:
Success can be defined only by me, not by my spouse, my parents or any other person.
Success is a feeling, not the physical trappings, awards or recognition that others consider the benchmarks of success.
Success at any price may not be worth it.
Success is a dynamic process of attaining, not a fixed state. I define and redefine my fitness goals as I make day-to-day decisions.
Success occurs in steps. Experiments and setbacks help me determine what is needed next. The results—both successful ones and failed attempts—provide useful information.
Success can be learned. I am not failing as long as I am learning new ideas, experimenting and moving forward.
Everyone has a few failures under his or her belt.
Success is best achieved when goals are not so high that they are impossible to reach or so low that they fail to challenge.
Success is, in the final analysis, being honest and present with myself.
After I explored my own ideas on success, I thought it might be worthwhile to see how others define success. The thinking of two people, Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Wooden and author Maya Angelou, resonated with me.
In his book Beyond Success, John Wooden asserts that the score at the end of the game isn’t the defining measure of success. In his view, the measure of our success is whether “we’ve given our best to become the best of which we were capable.” John’s view of success relies heavily on internal leadership—that is, self-coaching and self-talk that keeps us on track.
Maya Angelou defines success as liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.
John’s and Maya’s definitions of success make me more comfortable with my progress and achievements. I am wholly committed to becoming the best of which I am capable. And, at least most of the time, I like myself, like what I do and like how I do it.
What about you? If by chance you are discouraged by your current lack of progress, remember the observation of Mike Ditka: “Success isn't permanent, and failure isn't fatal.”
As long as we have a tomorrow, we have an opportunity for a fresh start.