Our school motto is Aspire, Believe, Succeed. This motto permeates all our decision-making and planning for our students and our expectations of them.
We feel that success should be something that all individuals aspire to and that there is no ceiling to what anyone can achieve. What does it mean to be successful though? How can you measure being successful? Some people see happiness as a measure of success. Others may consider financial wealth to be the answer while others seek success within their chosen career.
If we consider the things on the left to be important to our individual happiness, we might want to consider how important it is to be successful in each of these areas. Not all of these areas will have equal importance to every person. I would ask you to consider which of these areas are your priorities?
It’s not easy to keep everything in harmony, for example a workaholic may neglect the time they spend with friends and family or someone that likes to spend time with their friends may not be very focussed upon their work.
Does success mean that an individual has achieved success in all of the areas in life that they consider to be a priority? This takes persistence and continuous attention.
I believe that success and happiness come from the process of enjoying reaching your goals rather than in reaching your goals themselves.
“We thrive not when we’ve done it all but when we still have more to do.”
Back in 2010 I set myself a personal goal to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. This was partly to try to get myself fitter and partly to try and raise money for a secondary school in Tanzania. I have never been very good at sports and I felt that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do such a challenging physical feat. I prepared physically and mentally for 2 years to climb that old mountain.
When it came to the actual climb I did pretty well and despite battling altitude sickness, a stomach bug and migraines from day 1, I still made it to summit day. We set off at 1am and I battled the illnesses throughout. An hour from the peak, I started to feel very hot and the doctor I was walking with asked me to stop so that she could take a look at me. She made the decision to send me back down the mountain as she suspected that I had the onset of hypothermia. I begged her (embarrassingly on my knees) to let me continue but she was adamant that I should not continue. I was incandescent with rage. That poor doctor certainly got my wrath! The air turned blue with my rather choice language. I’d prepared for 2 years for this. Everyone at school and at home knew I was climbing this mountain. I was a failure.
Or at least that’s what I thought in that particular moment.
By the time I calmed down, (this took quite a long time -in fact I didn’t calm down until I had returned to the UK!) I realised that reaching the top of that mountain didn’t matter a jot. I had achieved a great deal in the preparation for the climb. I organised loads of events inside and outside of school that helped raise money for a worthy cause and enabled a great deal of people to laugh… a lot. I had laughed a lot too.
On the climb I met a group of amazing people that inspired me in so many ways. My fellow climbers were all there for different reasons and I learned so much about the human spirit. Some were there because they had fought cancer and survived. Some were there because they were still battling cancer. Some were there because they had lost loved ones in war. Some were simply there because they had problems that they were struggling with at home.
The guides and porters that helped us so much were a group of the most uplifting people I have ever come across in my life. I will always be grateful for the guide that cheered me on so much throughout the climb. His name was “Good Luck”. What an apt name.
I realised that actually it was a good thing that I did not make it to the summit of that mountain. I realised that actually sometimes you have to listen to your body and not push yourself until you are ill. Nothing is worth making yourself ill for. It made me take much better care of myself both physically and mentally. It spurred me on to get fit and make sure that I maintained a work-life balance. I got some new hobbies (including joining a kettlebell club – yes I found a sport I can do) and became fitter and healthier than ever before.
Some months after the climb, I received a short video about the school in Tanzania where I had sent the money I had raised. It showed the pictures of the school before and after they used the money I sent to build a well and a kitchen. The students had created a garden and planted fruit, vegetables and crops around their school and it showed them eating fresh food for their lunches instead of the maize porridge that they had always eaten. The students were no longer having to walk kilometres to collect water.
My failure was perhaps not quite the failure I thought it had been.
According to Geoffrey James, “real success comes from the quality of your relationships and the emotions that you experience each day.” He went on to say that you should ask the following 10 questions at the end of each day and this will guarantee success:
- Have I made certain that those I love feel loved?
- Have I done something today that improved the world?
- Have I conditioned my body to be more strong, flexible and resilient?
- Have I reviewed and honed my plans for the future?
- Have I acted in private with the same integrity I exhibit in public?
- Have I avoided unkind words and deeds?
- Have I accomplished something worthwhile?
- Have I helped someone less fortunate?
- Have I collected some wonderful memories?
- Have I felt grateful for the incredible gift of being alive?
The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis determine your focus, and your focus determines your results. These questions force you to focus on what’s really important.
Perhaps you could develop your own set of questions to help you find the success that you seek. One thing I believe to be true is that completion is a goal but it’s never the end.
For me, success is measurable in the relationships that an individual has. This begins with the relationship that you have with yourself. I believe that it is vital that people are kind to themselves. As human beings, we make mistakes. Mistakes help us to learn and find out about ourselves and the world around us. As mistakes are so crucial to our understanding of life, it is important that we learn to forgive ourselves and not dwell on the past.
Philosopher and author, Sydney Banks, stated that “you have to try to realise that happiness and contentment come when the human mind breaks the chains of yesterday’s bondage.” In other words, you need to recognise that events in the past have happened but these events do not need to define who you are or prevent your current or future state of happiness. Let the past go and concentrate on living positively in the now. Make the most of the relationships you have and you will feel more fulfilled in life. Take the time to appreciate the ordinary things in life, like laughing with a friend, or noticing the way the crisp morning light brightens the colour of the grass.
Personally speaking, I try to recognise the success in my own life every day. I am thankful for working with a dedicated and funny group of individuals at Nailsea School. I am thankful for being in the position where I can enable the students at Nailsea to learn to find their path in life. I am thankful for having simply the best family and friends anyone could ask for. One of my favourite things that I am thankful for every day is coming home to be greeted by my dog, Mr Pickles, who is simply grateful to have some company.