Sunday Snippet: Anna Quindlen

“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”

Anna Quindlen is perhaps best known for her work writing for the New York Times and later with Newsweek, but she has also penned a number of fiction and nonfiction books during her illustrious career. You might be familiar with One True Thing, a novel that was made into a 1998 feature film. Meryl Streep was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in that movie.

In the above quote, Quindlen brings up two very important points on the nature of success. We all seem to have an intuitive understanding of its definition, but we don’t always follow through on this understanding through our actions. For example, while some of us may say that the ends justifies the means, most of us do not want to sacrifice our integrity or dignity for material rewards. Your opinion may differ.

For me, the second part of the quote is even more poignant. Again, I think most of us recognize that success should make us feel good. This is an internal sensation and we want to believe that success and happiness can co-exist. Indeed, we believe that they should co-exist, because true success will bring true happiness, right?

Why is it, then, that we oftentimes turn to the outside world for approval? That we look for the “symptoms” of success from others rather than seeking the success for our own sake? Are you in control or are you dependent on those around you to substantiate and legitimize your supposed success?

Yes, it is important to heed the advice of others and it is important to value the company of others, but sometimes, you just have to be stubborn and seek success for your own sake. If you’re not happy, then you have not achieved true success. Perhaps Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life can point us in the right direction?