Friday, 27 October 2017

Measuring success

How do we measure success? It really depends on how we define it. It's different things to different people, being case and very often time dependent.

In some walks of life, defining success is a bit more straightforward, in theory anyway. The sporting world is one obvious example. The rules of engagement are, usually, easily understood and from them emerge the winners separated from the also-rans. Of course normally there can only be one winner and some individuals or teams may have a clear, unfair advantage over others. In such an environment, those who don't actually win may view their season or career or whatever as a success.

We might be on the road to success but we just don't realise it ... (Wrong Way Corrigan)
Looks quite like the road to failure ... (Image from quotefancy.)
However, on a more personal level, taking our life as a set of interconnected things, judging it as a success (so far; we're not planning to pack it in just yet if we can help it) is down to the way we view it.

As has often been said, the roads to success and failure are very similar. In fact, seeing life as just one long road with plenty of twists and turns, then the difference between success and failure at any one time just comes down to which side of that road we're on. It's therefore a mentality thing more than anything else -- basically which side of the bed we fall out of on any given day, so to put.

Yes, we have to make decisions at various stages along that road of life, but we continue on one path nevertheless. We can't be on different routes simultaneously.

Even what some people see as fundamental indicators of success can be contested. Take financial stability, for example. On its own, it doesn't necessarily mean we have achieved success. (Fair enough, the line 'It's not always about money' is easier to utter when you have it compared to when you don't. So it is said anyway, we wouldn't know.)

We might have money but we may not have achieved what we wanted to or what we were capable of doing.

Bringing it back to something more natural, the fundamentals of a species, success is ensuring that we pass on our genes to the next generation, and multiple times at that to increase the chances of the germ line continuing for some time.

Yet with the global human population becoming almost too difficult to manage, we could view success as somebody actively limiting the number of offspring he/she has, or not having children at all. In this case, we might not pass on our genes, but we can rest assured that our energy will convert into something else when we breathe our last. Reassuring that.

Thus, success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. That is to say, if others view us as being successful but we don't feel it ourselves, then it doesn't really amount to much. In this regard, being successful is linked to finding happiness and fulfilment in what we do.

'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' as they say.
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Monday, 9 October 2017

Taking the time to think

Many of us were brought up with, and still adhere to, the old adage, ‘The devil makes work for idle hands’. In other words, not having anything to do invariably leads to negative occurrences. Thus, to keep out of harm’s way it’s all about, to borrow from Rihanna, ‘work, work, work, work, work’; always having something to do, always being busy. Indeed.

However, there is a growing appreciation -- backed up by research -- for a little bit of, if not quite utter idleness at least a bit of boredom in our lives. The thinking is, in today’s always-connected world, we don’t leave enough time aside to actually think. It’s all go, go, go.

Disconnecting is good for us ... (Image from ClipArtPanda.)
What’s more, even in our ‘down times’, a lot of us are staring at a screen, plugged into music, messing around on our phones or such like. There are distractions all over the place preventing us from truly switching off and getting in touch with our minds on our own terms.

Where once the daily commute to and from work could be used as a time to ponder, now it’s rare to find somebody not fiddling with their smartphone. (Heck, even the old sanctuary of the toilet is under attack, be it with people using their devices on the throne or rushing the experience so as to get back to work.)

For sure, a lot of people don’t view using the latest app or whatever in their leisure time as a bad thing, but research suggests that it can adversely affect creativity. A case of when we’re using such things, even if they’re educational, somebody else has already done a large part of the thinking for us, so to put it. (Where alcohol, to a point, stimulates the creative juices -- so some like to think -- being too busy, too ‘switched on’ impedes them. Sure didn’t some of the best Irish writers of times past like a drink every now and again?)

From a personal viewpoint, not having a smartphone, nay any phone, these last few days -- a forced absence due to a theft albeit -- has been quite refreshing (we’ve found the silver lining in this cloud).
Nonetheless, and unfortunately in certain aspects, not being in the smartphone loop these days can mean missed work opportunities, especially for independent workers.

What’s more, for those of us working in areas where the internet is a fundamental part, there are many pros to having a smartphone. In effect, it’s a convenient, pocket-sized office. So what previously was considered lost time, like waiting for a meeting to start, can now be used more productively.

In theory, this should free up other time to be used as we see fit, at our leisure, letting our minds wander. In practice, however, it often leads to us trying to squeeze more smartphone time into our days. Rather than letting the battery die, many of us frantically search for a power point. ‘Sure I couldn’t be without WhatsApp for 30 minutes now, could I?

Another angle to all of this is multitasking. Modern technology has allowed us to have lots of things on the go at once. What can happen here is that we fail to devote enough time to any one of them to complete them properly. A variant of the old ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ line.

As we’ve said before on similar themes, it’s all about balance. Finding time in a busy, always-on-the-go life to pause, take stock, let the mind drift, this is important. This little bit of helpful ‘boredom’.

On the other hand, however, there are those who perhaps think too much, question what they are doing, where they are going to the point where it becomes a problem in itself. This can be a momentary thing, like after the death of a loved-one or some other life-changing incident, a natural reaction really.

Yet, if it’s more long-lasting, it’s more than likely a sign of feeling unfulfilled, believing our lives lack purpose. In this scenario, the ‘cure’ may be found in less moments of boredom or excessive thinking and more action.

Whatever the case, bored or busy, keeping that dastardly devil at bay, that’s the key. Most of the time anyway.
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