Saturday, January 23, 2016


I spend a great deal of class time preaching to my high school students about the skills they need to be successful in the adult world. I tell them they must do the hard things that may not come naturally, if they want to rise above their current status. "I don't care about your excuses," I tell my students, who would be labeled by many as disadvantaged. "I don't want to hear about the things that are holding you down so you can't succeed. I want you begin to see how the so-called disadvantages in your life are actually advantages. The hardships you have endured are the very things that can propel you to succeed."

However, with all this talk of success, it occurred to me recently that I haven't really given them any idea of what success might actually look like. I don't want them to see success as simply $ucce$$. There is so much more.

I decided to analyze my own life and see if, at middle age, I would consider myself successful. I decided that, yes, I am most certainly successful. The following has allowed me to reach that conclusion:
- I am not alone. I have a family to love--one who loves me back--and we all enjoy spending time together. We talk; we laugh; we learn; we explore together and have adventures together. We can cry together, encourage one another, support one another--even if we also sometimes argue with one another. I also have good friends with whom I can talk, laugh, and generally enjoy life.
- My family is well-provided for. We have a safe, warm, (basically) clean and attractive place to live. We have plenty of nutritious food to eat, clothes we like that are appropriate to varied weather conditions, as well as access to (mostly) reliable transportation. We do not live a lavish lifestyle with all the latest gadgets, expensive clothes and new cars, but we have enough to be content, as well as enough to share with others, inviting guests into our home whenever we wish.
- My husband and I have work that we enjoy--even though it is sometimes difficult and draining--work that pays our bills and gives us a sense of satisfaction that we are doing something significant and rewarding.
- I have enough free time to enjoy hobbies and interests, as well as exercise and occasional travel.
- I can enjoy art in many forms and appreciate the beauty all around me.
- I have a clear conscience. I do not have to turn to dishonest means to meet any needs. I can live a life of personal integrity, which makes me feel happy with who I am.
- I have beliefs that are backed up by credible information and I can base my priorities and passions in life around them. They provide me with personal motivation, satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and gratefulness. 
I am sure I could add other things to the list if I really thought more about it, but these are the things that initially stood out in my mind. I will be sharing this list with all of my classes on Monday, the last regular day of school for this semester before final exams begin Tuesday. I will then have them spend a bit of time thinking about and writing out their own definitions of success--things to shoot for for the future. Each student will summarize his/her thoughts on a 3x5 card (anonymously, if preferred) and hand it to me on the way out the door as the bell rings. I am very curious to see what they write. I will share some of the responses here.

How about you? How do you define success?

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