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Monday, 19 September 2011

Four Levels of Success

How we measure "success" reveals what we are living for.

Success means different things to different people. How we define success is significant, because it points out what we think is most important in life. Nobody goes through life trying to lose -- we are all trying to succeed (to live our lives the best possible way). The way we define success will shape our goals and our attitudes. An unhealthy culture defines success as having more and being more than others.  A healthy culture defines success as doing good for others, making a contribution to family, friends, community, and world, and growing in faith.

Success Level 1: Material
Having pleasures and possessions

The successful life is measured by the accumulation of possessions and material wealth. This level is defined as having nice things and living comfortably.
Indulging in creature comforts, food, wine, shopping, and the other Epicurean delights constitute a life well lived. "The person with the most toys wins" is a fitting motto.

If we love only for this level, we will start to think that success means having more – and end up thinking that anybody who is poor or disadvantaged cannot be successful. 
We will overlook some of the most important things in life, like family, friendship, community and faith.

Success Level 2: Ego
Being admired, powerful, a winner

Success is seen as winning, control, power, achievement and popularity.

If we lived only for this level, we will believe that success is measured by where we stand compared to everyone else.

We can get caught up in a comparison game of having more and being more than other people. We will miss opportunities to make a difference in the world and to do good for others.

Success Level 3: Contribution
Loving others and doing good in the world

The successful life is optimizing the difference we can make in the world, with our family, friends, community, work, or church. 
When we seek success in this level, working for the good of others, (quality) relationships are strengthened, (deep) character built, priorities set straight and sincerity of our commitments. We can cooperate with one another, and rejoice in the good that others accomplish.

No matter how attractive this view of success is, it has an Achilles’ heel. 
It makes us yearn for an ideal of Love, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that we cannot produce, and that others cannot produce for us. 
It leaves us open to disappointment, frustration, dashed romanticism, and dashed idealism.

Still this level of success must be directed towards the next level of success or else it tempts us to think we can do it all ourselves, over emphasize our accomplishment and fall back into (Level 2) ego attitude, leaving behind humility, gentleness kindness and compassion.

Success Level 4: Universal
Surrendering to God

The fourth level of success counteracts these problems because it brings a universal perspective to the foreground.  If you have faith, you might call it God’s perspective.

Our contribution in making a difference stems from a commitment to grow in faith. 
Our concern is with what has ultimate, unconditional, and eternal significance—God and His will. 
This is only possible with God’s grace to lead us to where we cannot go ourselves.

This level clearly lets us understand that God intends good for the whole world, and that He’s the only one who can follow through on that promise. Our success comes from following Him. The more we surrender to Him, the more successful we are. Even when we fail, we trust He is able to make good come out of it.

The above summarises the four level of success in the book, Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues (by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.) To read more and download other resources, visit or