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What a big success can do
Tennis legend Chris Evert, winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, says the euphoria of winning Wimbledon lasted about a week.
Boxer Tyson Fury admitted the morning after his famous win against world champion Wladimir Klitschko felt empty.
The first man to win seven Olympic gold medals at a single Games, swimmer Mark Spitz noted that he was literally crushed when he realized how short-lived the brilliance of victory was.
All of these stories go against the usual notion of successful people. Nevertheless, they are essential because one victory only sometimes leads to continued success. Exploring triumph’s bright and dark sides helps to look at it all from a different angle and start setting more ambitious goals than just “always being first”.
It’s not just in sports that sad stories of triumph exist. Successful business people can suffer from mental exhaustion and depression. The straight A’s at school and university suddenly realize they are unsuited to the job, which requires creativity, leadership, and teamwork skills. Think of ineffective politicians who win elections and have yet to decide which way to approach essential issues of social inequality or health care.
I prefer to look broadly at the experience of typical winners. Take the astronauts who were the first to go to the moon. What was their life like outside this great event? How did they feel when they returned to Earth? Among their stories are examples of severe depression. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, described with the phrase ‘an unparalleled emptiness’ not only the landscape that opened up from the satellite but also his inner feelings about returning to his home planet.
Why the typical perception of success is deceptive
I’ve noticed that the more we learn about winners, the more our inner concept of success changes. The specific vision of triumph is rather primitive: a champion standing on a high podium, a boss grandly announcing the company’s incredible profits, and lawyers in court smiling after a filibuster-winning case.
Take a broader look at all these points. What does winning a race mean to an athlete in terms of their whole life? How do a company’s achievements affect the lives of its employees? How do A’s in the diary prepare a teenager for adulthood?
When we look at success through the lens of a fleeting event, it’s as if we separate it from the past, the future, and even ourselves. Success is short-lived; it has little impact on our lives in the long run.
What is success in the long term?
My experience and study of research in psychology and anthropology have convinced me that it is worth redefining success and taking a distant perspective on it.
Thus the concept of long-term success was born. It consists of three components: clarity of thought, continuous development, and connection with people. It is not a yardstick for victory but rather an approach that can help you sort out your vision of the world, your place, and your relationships with others.
In the long run, the idea of success provides an opportunity to look at triumph in terms of its infinity. This concept helps you learn to apply broader criteria to define what victory is.
1. Clarity of thought
In the long run, the first component of success requires us to figure out what matters. Forget the list of accomplishments and recognition. Ask yourself what can give your life meaning. Clarity of thought will allow you to see beyond quick wins, career goals, and school exams. Regular competitions with winners and losers, like the Olympics, can lose meaning if they involve a few moments of victory and nothing else.
In sports, finding clarity of thought is relatively easy. We need to understand why we need medals beyond the podium. Why is an award more than just a piece of shiny metal? What value does it have in the long run? What is even more valuable to the winner and the proverbial award? The answers to these questions help athletes realize their influence on themselves and the people around them and understand how they see their lives after sport.
The same is true in other areas. By clearly understanding our goals and their meaning, we begin to see the world around us more broadly and deeply, realizing there is more to it than winning medals, bonuses, or grades. We finally understand why we are moving towards a specific goal, and this unlocks our energy, creativity, and resilience.
2. Constant development
At the beginning of my Olympic career, the “winner takes all” attitude made us compete desperately against each other to win first place in the daily rankings. Future teammates were perceived as enemies rather than partners who would help improve the overall result. We developed our skills in a very narrow direction. We had no time to slow down and change anything, even if it could lead to better results.
There needed to be a better approach. The choice of global improvement and development rather than short-term triumph leads to real success. This is what the second component of the idea of success in the long term – continuous development – symbolizes.
Whether you win or lose by a landslide, you always have the opportunity to learn important lessons about your field and yourself. The results of your work are almost always out of your control. It’s better not to dwell on them but to consider how triumph or failure can affect your personal development. This approach will make you more resilient, help you be flexible in your work or study, and teach you to accept defeat with dignity and make the most of it.
The essay writers from the “write my essay for me free” service say that in the book “The Progress Principle” Stephen Kramer and Teresa Amabile shared an interesting study. It showed that to increase employee engagement and creativity, it is necessary to focus on daily progress.
The authors studied 12,000 records where employees of one company talked about the main events they remembered of the day. People were most influenced by “significant progress in a task that others cared about” and moments when that progress was noticed and celebrated.
Caring and awe in the team also proved to be necessary. Not achieving goals, not incredible annual figures, not a monthly bonus, but support that helps others succeed.
Just imagine how much more efficient and comfortable working or studying can become if you focus on the process rather than the intermediate results. And by the way, it won’t negatively affect them.
3. Сonnections with people
This component of long-term success is designed to help you shift your focus and start valuing people and relationships more than tasks and intermediate outcomes. Carefully examine your relationships with co-workers, friends, and relatives.
If you tend to be constantly competing with them and trying to outdo their achievements, it is worth choosing new tactics. Look for ways to collaborate, “invest” time in long-term communication, build trust and choose people over ambition.
Our sports team would never have been able to compete if we hadn’t worked on building good team relationships. The desire to win would not have taught us to move in sync, react correctly, and almost telepathically sense each other.
Or let’s take business, philanthropy, and public administration. There, it isn’t easy to find even one person without many connections and people who helped him on his way to success. This proves once again that relationships work.
Why apply the concept of success long-term in life
This idea expands the understanding of victory and triumph. It teaches you not just to cross items off your to-do list but to ask yourself questions. What have you done today for your future? What knowledge will be helpful to you now and in the future? What have you invested in relationships with those around you? What new people have you met?
I have concluded that experiences, relationships, and real stories are always alive. You “carry” them in you every minute. The same cannot be said of medals, diplomas, and places on the board of honor. You probably mention them on your CV, but those around you see you, not your track record.
Please think of the athletes we talked about at the beginning. They strived to be the first and found that life after the podium was empty and uninteresting. This happens when you run after the result instead of giving it meaning.
When it becomes necessary to you how you won – the experience you gained, the success story, the impact you had on others – your view of the world changes. Intermediate results cease to affect your self-esteem, and you realize that the next achievement is part of something bigger.
Events considered personal, social, and even global victories are not always meaningful to our lives in the long run. Remember the famous phrase, “Winning isn’t the most important thing. It is the only thing that matters”? Well, only the first part of it is genuine, and “the only thing that matters” is temporary and changeable.
Start with yourself. Question social norms, myths, and assumptions about what true triumph is. Strive for clarity, continually learn, and remember to connect with yourself and others. Then the concept of success can change your life.