Success, Significance, and Satisfaction

I have been thinking about these three words for a long time now, ever since one of my mentors over 5 years ago challenged me to think critically about the three.

The question he asked me to consider and the resulting challenge he gave me was this:

What does success, significance, and satisfaction mean for you? And, can they co-exist in harmony?

I have been racking my brain ever since. To be honest, I have teetered between the three every single year (if not every single month) and changed my perspective many times over.

There have been times where I believed the following equations to be true:

  • Success = Significance + Satisfaction
  • Significance = Success + Satisfaction
  • Satisfaction = Success + Significance

This is on a good day. On a bad day though I see them not as additive but more negative where one of them is limited or limiting:

  • Success = Significance – Satisfaction
  • Success = Satisfaction – Significance
  • Significance = Satisfaction – Success
  • Significance = Success – Satisfaction
  • Satisfaction = Significance – Success
  • Satisfaction = Success -Significance

Which means that one of them naturally is disregarded or compromised in order to obtain the other two (perhaps).

Again, on a good day it all appears to make “sense” but on a bad day one of them seems to get thrown out or limits the other two (or becomes limiting).

What has happened though recently is a personal discovery where I realized that I have never answered my mentor’s original question directly: That is, the point of co-existing.

With an equation I do not necessarily need them to co-exist as equals as there is a linear relationship and progression of one, two, and three. There exists prioritization and limitation. There exists amplification and minimizing of one, or two, or all three as a result.

All-in-all, there is no right or wrong equation. Rather, it is. They exist. And the tension that exists, although palpable and very, very real, can never be completely solved.

Rather, it might look like this in an ideal and tension-less world:

  • Success == Satisfaction == Significance

There are times in our lives that we’ll naturally concentrate more of our time in one area, cultivating one as the other stand by or in the wings. As we mature as individuals we may find some sort of equilibrium but it’s tenuous, at best.

I’m sorry that I don’t have a better solution but the lack of a solution seems to be the best solution for something like this. Love to hear your thoughts.