Creating A Sustainable Definition Of Success

If our success is contingent upon climbing someone else’s ladder, what happens to us if the ladder breaks, gets stolen, or sold whilst we are mid-climb?

When we really think about it, relying on other people’s definitions of success is not sustainable. It is a moving target. If we rely on others to define success for us or if we chase someone else’s success model, the path we are on and the goal we are aiming for can change on a whim and we can be left alone and adrift, having spent a countless amount of time and effort working toward something that no longer exists as a possibility.

Success is and should be a very personal experience. It is something we must define for ourselves and work toward on our own, whether within our chosen occupation or in our personal lives outside of working hours. By creating our own definition of success, not contingent upon a specific career path, business model, or organizational structure, we afford ourselves the luxury of being able to work toward our own personal success regardless of what job we have, relationship we are in, or what the economy or culture around us does or does not do.

Our goal should be to create a definition of success for ourselves that cuts through occupational, cultural, and even familial expectations, to define success in a way that we can live with, regardless of educational, career, or social status. We must discover that which we love to do, love to experience, and that which we cannot live without, and we must reach for that as our measure of success, no matter what else necessity demands of us along the way. The only thing that makes life worthwhile, the only thing that makes it sustainable, is to have meaning and purpose that is greater than our finances, our careers, and even, sometimes, our relationships, something that does not change even when our external circumstances do.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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