Why do we do what we do? 

Ten times out of 10 is because we want to be successful at it. 

Until today, my life has been a work towards a definition of success designed in my youth. 

Everything I do is to achieve that definition of success. This vision, this destination, is so powerful, vivid that it gives me the inner motivation I need to pull from the darkness of life challenges and failures. 

How a dream guided me to define success

Fifteen years ago, I had a dream. 

It was the day of judgment, and it looked like an airport. Everybody was in line, and we had to go through the security scan; if it gave us the green light, we were good to go to heaven, and if it was red, the signal meant to go to hell. 

However, before we go through the gate, we have a preview of both places. 

While I was waiting in line, I was taking stock of my life, and I could conclude with confidence that I would go to heaven. I did not do anything to deserve going to hell, so the only other option was to go to heaven. 

Finally, it was my turn to go through the security scan. I was a bit nervous but at the same time confident. 

I put a step in front of the other, went on the other side, and then came the beep and the color red.

At this point, I felt a dreading feeling of despair that I even felt in my body in the material world; as I am writing these words, I can still feel this in my heart.

I was sad, confused, and at a loss for words. And then I asked Allah soubhana wa ta’ala: why?

And then I had my answer: 

“You still haven’t accomplished what you were meant to on earth; this is the reason why you are going to hell. However, I will give you another chance to go back and fulfill your destiny so you will be granted the entrance to heaven.” 

At this point, I felt happy and grateful for this second chance, and today I am in awe at the show of mercy that Allah soubhana was ta’ala shows us at every second of every minute that goes by. 

I then went back to earth, flying.

I interpret this dream being a direct message from my creator to learn about what is my purpose in life and that living by it will feel like heaven and on the opposite not living by it feeling like hell.

This story shows you that how I define success transcends everything I do in this life and the next. 

Definition of success

One of my favorite definitions of success is by John Wooden, head of basketball coach at UCLA in the US. 

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming” 

This definition has a deeper meaning than how the oxford dictionary defines success:

Success vs. Failure

We associate success with “good” and failure with something “bad”. However, our brain doesn’t differentiate the two words; it is more the value that we allocate to these two words, creating a clear divide between them.

One is something that we aim towards, and the other we want to avoid at all costs. 

So what is the definition of failure? 

These past few years, I am observing a redefinition of the word failure. 

First of all, if we have to take the definition of failure as “an absence or lack of success” from the oxford dictionary, it implies that we MUST define what success means for us first. 

Even with that, I feel like we can add a deeper meaning to it by reflecting a bit. 

One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Eddison is, “I haven’t failed, I just found 10000 ways that don’t work”. When I read it, I thought that this is one of the best narrative shifts around what failures meant. 

What if failure was good? What if failure is part of the natural process of growth? 

One conclusion I got from reflection and my personal life is: FAILURE IS AN AUTOMATIC STEP TO SUCCESS.

So why don’t we like it? 

Well, because it sucks! it hurts our ego! it can even make us look like a fool in the eyes of others.

Because the definition of success is subjective, the definition of failure is also subjective. 

As humans, we assign meaning to things and experiences, even to emotions. We can do it consciously, and this is the real game changer!

Let’s go back to how we can define what SUCCESS means to us.

How do I look for MY definition of success?

Have you read the book “Springboard” by professor Shell? It is the perfect book for this topic as he goes through how you can define success for you and how you can achieve it. 

In his book, he has two questions that you can use to start your quest: 

  • How do I define success in my life? How does it look like? How will you feel? 

Get creative and in detail. Take your time; remember that these things cannot be rushed. 

  • What are my strengths and weaknesses in terms of success-oriented practices? 

Again, it is a personal inquiry. I invite you to be curious and objective with yourself. You can even ask the people closest to you how they see you. It might give you a 360° view of who you are. 

Using these two questions, start your self-inquiry and define what success means to you in the long term and short term. 

I firmly believe that if someone hasn’t defined what success meant for her or him, he or she will always feel unsatisfied in life and at work. The definition of success will be like the guiding light for everyday thoughts and behaviors. Therefore, take some time today or this week and answer these two questions.

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