What is success?

Living Yoga Poetry Yoga

sarah jamieson yoga

I was recently inspired by the powerful and poetic definition of success Elisabeth-Anne Anderson Stanley presents in this poem:


To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

(Source: Start Something That Matters, by Blake Mycoskie, p.vi)

I want to write my own definition of success so I can act with integrity in my pursuit of it. (Also, it is often easier to get somewhere when you’ve clarified where you want to go.) I welcome your thoughts, ideas, and critique. I want this definition to evolve with time, experience, and discussion.

Success: My Story of It

To speak the truth; to seek awareness and understanding; and
To compassionately care for the well-being of all living creatures;

To move with grace; to be at peace in the mystery;
To choose discomfort over resentment and
To be vulnerable;

To share the story of my heart and
to care for the hearts of others;

To cultivate a playful, curious, and generous spirit;
To seek beauty and to spend time in the trees;
To embody love;

To find the peace in the present moment,
the laughter in the midst of sorrow,
and the joy in the struggle;

To act with integrity; to stand against injustice, and
To be able to look future generations in the eye and say,
“I took care.”

To live honourably amongst a village.
This is to have succeeded.

What does success mean to you?


Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov



Closing my eyes, sitting in stillness, and letting this notion of failure come to rest in my heart, I feel an ache in my chest and a tear on my cheek as I connect with a fear that defines so much of who I am – who we are.

We have afforded this word, this concept, more power over our actions than it deserves, and I am writing today with the intention to take some of that power back.

Failure has come to denote such a horrible thing that some schooling systems no longer allow it to be “done” to children. In these systems, school children move forward from grade to grade whether they meet the recommended achievement levels or not – and inevitably, those who were not ready to progress will most likely fall further and further behind.

I touch upon this policy as an illustration of how the lesson that “Failing is horrible fate” is subtly masked by an approach that functions to allow everyone to feel like they are successful.  A much more empowering approach to lessons of success and failure is cultivating acceptance around the inevitability of both – and removing any aspect of self-worth from the equation.

Arguments I have heard against cultivating an acceptance of failure tend to be based upon the fear that people will consequently become complacent, lazy, unproductive slobs; people won’t work hard or push the limits of their capabilities because they will not have a value for the success that may stem from this effort.

I cannot say that this fear will not come to fruition through the softening and shifting of the connotation of failure, but, at the moment, I prefer it to the fear-induced paralysis that pervades the creativity and expression of this culture. I find so many people don’t sing, dance, paint, draw, perform, write, play music, play sports, take pictures or do yoga because they believe they can’t because somehow, somewhere along the way, not being able to staying in key or touch ones toes came to be associated with a complete inability.  A level of proficiency, only possible for most through years of practice, seems to have become a prerequisite to engagement for many activities – creative pursuits, in particular.

I’ve come to this exploration of failure because, in reflection, I have (thus far) failed to do what I intended with my blog. I planned to post once a week – regularly, but not so often that reading all my posts became a burden.

Over the years, I’ve been told I write beautiful sentences, that my writing keeps people engaged (and sometimes laughing out loud), and that I have a way of placing words that draws forth emotion in my reader. As I bring my heart to bare upon the page (screen), I bring clarity of intention to my thoughts, words and actions – and offer the similar opportunities for clarification to my reader.

I have failed (thus far) to be a regular blogger, and when I reflect on what writing brings to my life – and what others have conveyed to me that my writing brings to their lives, I feel sad about my failure, but, in the same space, I am grateful for the opportunity to move towards being less impacted and less defined by failure – as by success.  And, to close, I offer that perhaps what is most important is not whether we failure or succeed but rather that we continue to believe in the beauty of what we have to offer in this world and keep to stepping up – after every failure and fall – to offer it.