Everyone likes hearing success stories. Actually, everyone, except negative people! Most of us like to hear how people, especially loved ones, have excelled in their careers, studies, investments and businesses. We like to hear that babies are thriving, new mothers are coping, parents are raising children well, marriages are happy and cities are prospering. Having recently done some professional exams, I have been reflecting on the price of success. Success is not a matter of luck, because most successful people will tell us how hard they worked or are still working for it. They often make sacrifices and overcome several huddles to get to the enviable positions they have. It is lovely to be able to celebrate victories, but the journey is something no one normally wishes to go through again.
So what is the real price of success? Is it the long days and late nights, the hours of practice, the years of studying or the proactive networking? Is it the self-control it takes to maintain fidelity in marriage, the mental strength it takes to train good children, the humility it takes to learn new and better ways, or the wisdom it takes to manage resources well? We often focus on the fact that hard work pays, but hard work often requires a time investment. Whether we are studying, working or building relationships, success in those areas of life will mean spending time in those areas to make them work. As time and resources are limited, there must be more to the price of success than hard work.
When we celebrate professional, business or academic success, is it that something has had to give in another area of life for us to gain that success? Is it true that the best mothers are the ones that give up their careers to focus fully on the home? Do successful professionals always have poor home lives since they spend so much time on their careers? I think it is possible to balance different areas of life well, but sometimes it may be wise to just focus on one area for a period, or the long term, depending on your goals. In speaking to colleagues who also did well in the professional examination I recently took, I have found that most of us chose to spend less time with family, less time on hobbies, less time at work or less time in church to be able to study well for the excellent results achieved. The price of success might have been a feeling of emotional distance or stress in our relationships with spouses or children at the time, weight gain after stopping sporting hobbies, for example, friction with work colleagues due to an inability to take on as much work as usual in the work place, or even a feeling of spiritual lukewarmness. Success is sweet, but does not always have to be at the expense of more important things. Is career more important than faith? Is business more important than family? Or pleasing children more important than parents’ mental health? Only we can decide what is most important for us.
Some people might even go as far as losing their integrity, to gain ‘success’ through fraud. Others might lose their values in trying to keep up appearances of a happy, successful relationship with a boy/girlfriend. Yet others, might knowingly, or unknowingly, lose their very selves in the pursuit of business success, or wanting to be ‘liked’ by their children. I love my children, but I also know that training them to be well-behaved, resilient and independent might not make me the most 'liked' mum while they are little. This is why it is important to know what success means for us personally in different areas of life, what we are willing to pay for it and for how long. We could choose to sacrifice time, sleep or comfort for greater gain, but it is also important to be aware that poor sleep and chronic stress can negatively affect mental and physical health outcomes. Nothing good comes easy. We must choose for ourselves what we think is fair to pay for success and for how long.