Achievement, victory, accomplishment, and attainment are all terms that we commonly associate with success. It is today’s hallmark that we link success with monetary gain. As many of us have discovered, financial wealth does not guarantee bliss nor bring a satisfying meaning to life. Fiscal wealth can create different opportunities for you and make the ‘creature comforts’ of life easier to obtain. However, money by itself is not the ultimate measure to meaningful success.
Consider this old story: three men are found smashing boulders with iron hammers. When asked what they are doing, the first man says, "Breaking big rocks into little rocks." The second man says, "Feeding my family." The third man says, "Building a cathedral." The third man, the one who saw each hammer blow as contributing to the construction of a cathedral and sacred aspirations is doing meaningful work. His ultimate success will be meaningful from his individual efforts; and, for the greater community for their prayers and dreams.
Meaningful success is a different value structure for each of us. Whatever you define meaningful success to be can be derived from work for profit, volunteerism, physical or manual labor, even play. Each of us must define for ourselves what are the critical fundamentals we need from those efforts including, self expression pleasure, emotional fulfillment, psychological satisfaction; and, spiritual joy. There is not an established rulebook on how you find your meaningful work and eventual success. It can be as simple as changing jobs or searching the newspapers for prospects where you can apply your expertise and talents to fulfill your passion. You may not immediately see the realization of your efforts in your lifetime, but the legacy you leave will long be remembered by those that served with you. As many will tell you, ‘your heart was in the right place’.
Meaningful success is not just for today or transitory from one year to the next. David Lykken, Ph.D., a behavioral geneticist at the University of Minnesota states, "Happy people, it seems, are that way because they are doing something that is valued.” So was the value of prestige. In one study, Lykken interviewed people after they'd gotten a promotion they'd desperately wanted. Despite an initial boost in their joy, everyone's mood more or less returned to normal within a few months to a year. And in another survey of 800 graduates of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, alumni who ranked high income, job success and social status as their top priorities were twice as likely as others to describe themselves as very unhappy. On the other hand, gratifying employment does seem to matter. What was critical? The feelings of value and the belief that what you do is important. "That can happen whether you're a secretary or a trial lawyer," says Dr. Lykken.
How do you find your meaningful work and success? Remember that your belief systems will influence how you review opportunities and how you apply your strengths to a pending adventure. Use the basics here in your search:
• Is meaningful success related to an unfulfilled need for self expression or self illustration? Would it be important if your manifestation of self expression is viewable for society at large? If not, this could indicate that you be happier with answering a personal challenge or test. Not all meaningful success makes the evening TV station news or Entertainment Tonight.
• What social causes or missions do you feel drawn to? Are there conditions on the earth that you just can’t stand a moment longer? Do you find yourself enraged that situations exist such as, malaria conditions in India, bacteria laden water after hurricane Katrina, or even the number of abandoned pets being euthanized at the local pounds? If it is essential to your peace of mind and ‘rightness’ of the world, then perhaps an external endeavor is the place for you to apply your energies.
• If you treasure one-one relationships as an important facet in your life, then your talent might be in teaching or mentoring or in providing protection to the aged and vulnerable. Significant success for you here can be the experience of developing a younger mind, including all the stages of achievement and mistakes in the journey. Each of you will be enhanced by learning to be flexible in goal achievement and not measure each other by an overly rigid tape measure.

When you need to evaluate what is meaningful success for you, ask yourself:

• What people do you continually read about and want more information about? What are they involved in that you admire and want to do something similar, even if on a smaller scale?
• What decisions are you making that are based solely on financial gain? If so, are these decisions now affecting your sense of self worth, possibly making you feel shame? How can you resolve this plan of action over time?
• Are you in a chapter of your life where the previous goals are no longer relevant? What events or experiences have changed your intentions or objectives? How can you release previously held beliefs and pursue something more adventurous or self satisfying? What resources, or who, do you need to discuss your new intentions with?
• How can you define your fears over a new direction and produce a contingency plan for positive outcomes? If others think you have deserted them now for the pursuit of something more celebrated, what conversations could you need to have to manage consequences to those relationships?
• What if your potential contributions to society; and yourself, are dependent on an appreciation of yourself? How would self appreciation shape your decisions over taking a new risk and entering into something more meaningful?

“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.” Joseph Campbell

Author's Bio: 

Bradley Morgan is a corporate and leadership coach who served as a hi-tech executive for over 17 years in companies such as, IBM, Bay Networks, and Brocade Communications. Bradley’s credentials include a BS from Georgia Tech, a certificate in gerontology from the University of Maryland (CGP); and a Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) through the Newfield Network program. In the telecommunications industry, she developed both domestic and international systems engineering teams for technical expertise and executive level leadership. She is a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the Entrepreneur’s Empowerment Network; and the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce.