Imagine you want to get married or find a romantic partner and you can control that output, wouldn't you consider that success? How about if you want a new house, car, or boat and you are able to obtain them, would that be success? It sounds reasonable, that being able to control our ability to achieve our goals seems successful. Of course, we're not talking about how long it might take to achieve these goals. It might take months or years, though if you knew or felt that you were in control of the outcome then you may feel more successful.
This is related to the idea of learned helplessness. Imagine that whatever you wanted to achieve, I mean to really achieve that you know 100% that you can and will accomplish this. Image that you want to have a net worth of US$20 million. Let's say that is guaranteed. Now what if you are told that for the next 10 years you must get up at 5 am everyday and learn new skills, expose yourself to uncomfortable situations and have setbacks and periods of complete unhappiness. Would you continue to get up at 5am and continue to learn and walk through this river of fire to achieve you deep seated desire? I hope that I would.
I guess part of the issue is that no guarantees like this necessarily exist. It is very possible that we could do all these things and not achieve the US$20 million. So because of this, maybe we don't start, or if we do start, we give up after some time. I think each of us learns certain skills at a young age and we accept that we will be successful in those areas because we have a history of success. Maybe you are a funny person, or a social person, or an athlete, or good in school. As you grow up, we learn to accept that this is part of our personality and are reinforced that these are our strengths. In other areas, we maybe feel that we don't have control over them so maybe we feel less successful in those areas.
Another alternative theory is that instead of being in control of the outcome, we control our reaction to the outcome. So instead of saying that if we achieve some goal we are successful, we control our reaction to the outcome..
A third theory is that by definition we are in control of most all situations in our life. Most everyone is in control of how much they weight, how much knowledge they have, what type of relationships they have and how much money they have. If you are an adult, then most likely you use your own decision to decide what items to put into your mouth, you decide what books to read or classes to take, you decide what people you associate with and you decide what activities you perform for money and how much money you accept for them. If we truly accept this, that our situation in life is mostly under our control, then we can already be successful today, right now.
We can say "I am a successful person, and now I am going to change what type of success I achieve."
You are successful, now what type of success do you want to achieve?