When I went back to grad school a few years ago, my husband and son teased me about my grades. “You’re an overachiever, Mom,” my son said.
“Only an A?” my husband teased. “Why not an A+?”
All right. It’s true. I can be an obsessive Type A, especially when it comes to school. Each test, each project was a gauntlet, a challenge that I wanted to win, I needed to win.
Now that my diploma is safely tucked under my arm, I can admit that I needed that 4.0 as a visible sign of my intelligence, as proof that I deserved to be recognized, I deserved a place in the spotlight.
Are you like me–eager to shine, eager to be rewarded? Do you yearn for your “15-minutes” of fame? Have you thought about why you need this affirmation? Here’s a liberating and thought-provoking 30-second quiz I came across on a fellow-blogger’s site. No need to grab a pen and paper, just read the questions and think a little about them:
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
5. Name the last five Academy Award winners for Best Actor and Actress.
How did you do? If you’re like me, you had trouble remembering more than a few names. But the point here is that many top achievers stay in the spotlight for just a short time and do not linger in our memories. After the applause fades away and the awards collect dust, their achievements are often forgotten.
Now here’s another quiz. Let’s see how you do on this one:
1. Name three teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worth while.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
Easier? I suspect so. But the point is, which list would you want to be on? When I was younger, I would have told you I wanted be on the “A” list. I wanted the wider fame, the bigger accolades. But now, I am a bit wiser. The recognition I was seeking in grad school could not be earned merely by good grades. It needed to come from within me. And equally as important, the recognition that meant the most came from the people I love. And finally, I learned that the achievement I value the most is to have an impact on the lives of the people who are dear to me. These people are special, not because of their credentials, their money, or their awards. They make a difference because of their kindness, their love and concern, and their wisdom.
Perhaps this seems obvious to you. But for me, this was a lesson I needed to learn. And so, my question to you is–has your definition of success changed as you’ve grown older? If so, how? What type of recognition do you desire? Is the recognition you have received “enough,” or do you want more?