As we head into a new year, many people are discussing or posting about how to have a successful 2016. Articles on how to make it your best year ever proliferate. And with good reason; many, even most, people are looking for success. Really, who isn’t, in one form or another?
The problem is, however, the metrics by which we measure that success. Without good metrics, how will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?
Many of the articles and posts I’ve been reading deal with achieving financial goals and financial independence. The subtle (or not so subtle) message in our culture is that financial independence is proof of success. Or, doing well at work; starting a new business, getting a promotion, finally securing your seat in the corner suite. All these are achievements given as measures of success.
Yet, are these measures of success really the metrics we value? At the end of the day, or at the end of our lives, will we really care that much about the corner suite and a seven figure bank account? What difference will our achievements make when nobody remembers our name and someone else has our coveted office space? Money and titles and awards only go so far, and are of little merit once the fanfare of their presentation fades.
Joey Feek is the perfect example. A popular country music artist, Joey made headlines recently. But, she didn’t make headlines because she won a country music award, or because Joey and Rory released a new hit single. Joey made headlines because she is dying.
Much attention has been given to Joey Feek’s losing battle with cancer. In October 2015, she and her husband, Rory, announced that she was ending her cancer treatments and spending what remained of her life with her husband and daughter, Indiana. Her career doesn’t matter. Recording new albums and going on concert tours, generally the measure of success for a musician, do not matter nearly as much as recording herself reading to her daughter while she has breath so her daughter can still listen when she is gone. The luxury of time has been yanked away, revealing what few other things could; the true measure of her success.
Few of us will face such a stark choice. Few of us will have to make such drastic decisions. Perhaps, however, we’d make better choices if we did…because few of us will value money or possessions or accomplishments when faced with the end of life and the loss of all things.
Even when we have all that the world defines as success; money, achievements, recognition, and possessions-what difference do those things make if we’re miserable? Or if no one likes us? Or if we lose our family in our pursuit of the American Dream?
A simple internet search for “end of life regrets” provides a wealth of information on what people measure as success compared to what people truly value. The number one regret, in numerous articles (from Forbes, Inc.com, and others) was not spending enough time with the people they loved. Successful people, people for whom the world (at one time, at least) held great regard, people the world never knew…across the board, people regret not spending enough time with the ones they love.
So, what if we measure success this year not by how much money we add to our portfolio, or how many awards we win at work, or how many baubles we add to our collection, but by how much time we spend with those we love? What if, instead of having our to-do list filled with how to make better or sell more widgets, we list activities that reflect our top priorities? Activities like reading to our children at night, or being at our son’s baseball game or our daughter’s basketball game or piano recital, or slowing down enough to enjoy a morning cup of something with our special someone…or visiting our aging relative in the nursing home…all these are “little things” that can easily be squeezed out by the Tyranny of the Urgent. What would our new year look like if, at the end of it, we had no regrets? What kind of success would that be?