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Alternative Measures of Success

My friend Diane stopped by for a visit for a couple of days on her way back home to Vancouver and since she’s an avid photographer, we went out a couple of times to the shore for photography excursions. One of the first things to note would be this excerpt from a High Surf Advisory for my area (which faces the ocean West Northwest) which had been posted….

…HIGH SURF ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 8 PM THIS EVENING TO
NOON PST SUNDAY…

SWELLS WILL INITIALLY START OUT AROUND 10 FEET THIS MORNING…THEN
BUILD TO NW AT 14 TO 16 FEET LATE TODAY. THE SWELL IS EXPECTED
TO PEAK AROUND 24 FEET WITH A DOMINANT PERIOD OF 17 SECONDS BY

SATURDAY AFTERNOON.

A SWELL OF THIS MAGNITUDE WILL PRODUCE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SURF.
BREAKER HEIGHTS FROM 22 TO 26 FEET ARE EXPECTED WITH POSSIBLE
BREAKERS AROUND 30 FEET ON WEST AND NORTHWEST FACING BEACHES.

While we were very careful and I knew much better than to wear shoes or to turn my back to the ocean, I did manage to soak my pants legs in the process of taking photographs. And then later in the day, I did so again. And then the next morning, again I was attacked by an unruly storm surge and ended up going home with wet pant legs.

3 sets of wet pant legs in two days. To me, that is a great measure of success, for it implies that I was out, engaging with the world in a more adventurous or meaningful way.

I’ve often felt that getting Poison Oak is a measure of success as well, for it implies that there was a more wanton interactivity with nature and that caution did not necessarily win the day.

Yesterday, my friend Dixon called me and we went to play 9 holes of golf at a beautiful golf course (Tilden) in a regional park near Berkeley, CA. We played without keeping score so the standard measure of success on the golf course, a low score, did not come into play. The measure of success for golfing then became one of communing more with nature, having more truthful conversation, and happiness. I suggested that we each rate our happiness after each hole and add up those scores. We didn’t do that, but if we had, it would have been a real shoot out.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the country of Bhutan and how they’ve incorporated the concept of Gross National Happiness into their national planning process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_national_happiness.


There are many ways to measure success and incorporating happiness into that framework, especially at a national level, There is also much work going on in Buddhist Economics which factors such things as generosity and right livelihood into the causality and measurements of quality of life. Thailand seems to be moving more in this direction too.

So how else can we measure success rather than in monetary gain or in victories?

Here are some possibilities:

– Amount of free time
– I personally like to gauge how present I am being in a given day and the more present I have been, the more aware of my own experience as it was happening during the day, the more successful the day has been.
– Times spent laughing
– Meaningful conversations geared towards personal growth
– Number of times we smile at strangers
– Number of times we say something nice during the day to another person
– How often we were able to curtail negative expressions which might negatively impact another person
– Times we caught our own voice of negativity towards ourselves
– Gestures of generosity
– Efforts made to make the world a better place
– Time spent truly connecting with another person
– Making things more beautiful
– Teaching others something which helps them make themselves or the world better
– Time spent in nature
– The amount of ease that we feel during the day
– Asking questions of another person to give them a chance to be heard or to explore something more meaningful
– Moving forward on a project which has long term personal meaning
– Time spent in meditation or in generating silent intent (prayer, healing thoughts, well wishes)
– Times we were loving or encouraging to others

There are many ways that we can measure success. I’ve often said, “I want a Being job, not a Doing job.” Being jobs have performance evaluations based on items such as those on this list.

Any others you’d care to add…?


3 replies on “Alternative Measures of Success”

Hey Ted, great article thanks for posting. few years ago i used to have a note on my fridge with 5 things on it. I would get to the end of the day and seee how many of the 5 i had done, the more i had done, the better i usually felt, they were similar to yours. I then begun prioriting these 5 things in my life. I have been doing this for the past few years and i am in a great space. The 5 are (in no particlar order…
to spend time in nature
to spend time with others in true connection
to spend time meditating
to eat healthy foods
to exercise

i would recommend these to anyone who wants a more meaningful life.

As for being jobs, anything that is simple, dosent use too much mind, in nature, knowing your love of golf how about a Zen Greenkeeper?
1. A

How bout a Green Zookeeper? A Gentle Beekeeper? A Mindful Bookkeeper?

I like to measure my success by how many clever things I do with words and language – 🙂

I like all of this. I have been working through getting to the end of the day and beating myself up for not getting “enough” tasks crossed off of my To Do list. I have figured out that part of the reason is that many new things creep up and get done that aren't on the list. So I have sort of modified my list to be a To Do/Have Done list.

And I think I am going to try to work some of these great measures in to my TDHD list.

I also measure success lately by how sore I am from exercising yesterday.

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Sorry for offtopic

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