20 New Ways to Measure Success


Do not judge from mere appearances.” —Edwin Hubbel Chapin

For too long our world has measured success incorrectly. We have championed, promoted, and followed some wrong people along the way. We’ve judged others on the symmetry of their cheek bones, salary package, neighborhood of residence, eloquence of speech, designer of clothing, or model of car. We’ve been focused on the wrong things. And have made some terribly awful judgments along the way—both personally and collectively.

Might I take a moment and recommend some new measurements? Some new measurements that are not external in nature, but are internal—measurements that weigh the very heart and soul of humanity. And begin to give us a far better sense of who to trust, who to follow, and who to champion.

20 New Ways to Measure Success.

1. Character in solitude. Our character is best revealed not in the the public eye, but in private. What we do when nobody is looking is the truest mark of our character. And those who display character in the dark will always reflect it in the light.

2. Contentment in circumstance. Often times, contentment remains elusive for both the rich and the poor. It is a struggle for humanity no matter their lot in life. Rich is the man or woman who can find contentment in either circumstance.

3. Courage during adversity. Courage can only be revealed when it is required. And only those who have displayed it and acted upon it during adversity can lay claim to its possession. This adversity can take on many different forms, but courage will always look the same: action in the face of fear.

4. Faithfulness in commitment. Those whose words are true ought to be highly lifted up in our world today. Whether our word is given with a handshake, a contract, or a wedding ring, those who hold true to their oaths are worthy of commendation.

5. Generosity in abundance. To those who have received much, much should be given away. Often times, this abundance comes in forms other than material possessions. And in that way, we each have been given much… and each ought to be generous in our use of it.

6. Graciousness towards others. Those who routinely extend grace to others are among my greatest heroes. They have a healthy realization that this world is largely unfair, that people come from a variety of backgrounds, and that nobody is truly self-made… even themselves. As a result, they are quick to extend grace and mercy to others.

7. Gratitude despite circumstance. Those who can find enough good in any circumstance to express gratitude are typically focused on the right things. And those who are focused on the right things tend to bend their lives towards those things… and draw others along with them.

8. Honesty in deprivation. It is when we are deprived of something desired that honesty is the most difficult. Whether we are deprived of something physical or intangible (like a desired outcome), dishonesty is often used to quickly take gain of something. Those who show honesty during deprivation reveal how highly they esteem it.

9. Hope during heartache. When heartache cuts at such a deep level that simple optimism is not enough… only hope can emerge. When it does, it is undeniably from a source far greater than ourselves. And those who find it, discover one of the greatest powers in the universe.

10. Humility in accomplishment. Those who are quick to deflect praise in accomplishment ought to be first in receiving it.

11. Inspiration in relationship. We are all in relationship with others – sometimes in person, sometimes in print, sometimes in other ways. These relationships should not be used solely for personal gain but for bringing out the best in others. And those who inspire others to become the best they can be should be gifted with more and more and more relationships.

12. Integrity in the details. Integrity is found in the details. Those who show integrity in the little things of life will typically display it in the bigger things as well.

13. Kindness to the weak. It is usually the weakest among us that are in most need of our kindness… and yet they receive it the least because they have no way to immediately repay it. When kindness is only shown for the sake of repayment, it becomes an investment and is no longer true kindness. Our true measure of kindness is shown in how we treat those who will never repay us.

14. Love for enemies. Anybody can love a friend. Anybody can love those who treat us well… and everybody does. But it takes a special type of person to extend love towards those who treat us unjustly.

15. Optimism towards others. See the good in everyone. There is simply no way to bring out the best in others if you haven’t seen it first.

16. Perseverance in failure. Failure reveals much about our heart. It reveals our character, our humility, and our perseverance. We will all at some point face failure. And those who get back up and try again ought to be esteemed in our mind.

17. Purity in opportunity. While character is revealed in solitude and integrity is revealed in the details, purity is revealed in the face of opportunity. When dishonest gain (money, power, sex, etc.) presents itself, those who choose purity ought to be praised. Not only do they personally sleep better at night, but they make this world a better place for all of us.

18.Respect for authority. Authority brings order to a world of disorder. Certainly there are numerous examples throughout history (and today) of proper timing in overthrowing authority that oppresses its subjects. But in most cases, authority brings reason and order… and it should be allowed to do so.

19. Responsibility for mistake. From the weakest to the strongest, we all love to pass the blame. I can see it in my 5-year old daughter and I can see it in my government leaders. We are a people that are slow to accept responsibility for our mistakes. This is unfortunate. Because only those who can admit their mistakes have the opportunity to learn from them.

20. Self-control in addiction. We are a people that too often give control of our most precious asset to another. We fall under the influence of substances, possessions, or entertainment. When we do, our life is no longer our own. And those who retain self-control in the face of addiction ought to be recognized as unique and judged accordingly.

And when we all begin to properly esteem, champion, and follow those who lead from the inside, we will make far less mistakes in choosing who to follow.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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    • Zubair says

      Agree with all the points except respect for authority. There are far too many authoritative figures in this world that are corrupt, unjust and do not have the good of the people in mind. It’s probably best to keep your head down and not to quarrel with those “bad apples”. However, I will not and cannot respect ALL forms of authority.

      • Mel says

        I agree with you Zubair! All through history we have examples of ordinary humans who were brave enough to rise up against a corrupt authority.

  1. Lindsay says

    Amazing perspective! I am a very religious woman, and I appreciated reading about good character and morales that is not within religious discussion. I feel the majority of society is skewed, and it’s very hopeful to discuss renewal of these values as a community of our society, not just within our religions.

  2. Lee says

    Well written. Now how do we de-emphasize commercialization, and get parents to really support their children who want to become writers, poets, teachers, social workers; versus go ‘into business or a profession’? I suggest we start participating more in our faith communities, attend (run for) school boards, push our regional and national politicians to dis-obey using large media, do more grass-roots campaigning, and we citizens tell political candidates to not accept money from PACs and act to get politicians, and voters, to support petitions to rescind the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United case.

  3. ella Worsley says

    Beautifully written! Something we can all take on board and live by. Thank you for sharing. Keep up the great work! :)

  4. Aare Luup says

    Please explain to me Your following statement, because I do not understand it at all:

    “Our character is best revealed not in the the public eye, but in private. What we do when nobody is looking is the truest mark of our character.”

    If we do not want get lost in theoretical speculations, it is better to give some real life experiences and examples.

    So: what I do for example, when I am alone?
    1) sleep
    2) read books
    3)watch TV
    4)take a shower
    5) take a walk on the streets
    6) drink coffee and think about the life

    Except for a taking shower, there is (in principe) no activity, what I do in private, what could not be shown to all the people on big screens- I am common human and live a common life. I do have my temptations to lie or cheat sometimes, but I think, that is commonly human. And usually I have these temptaions not in private, but when facing the other people.

    So, please explain to me, how could my character be described or determined by those (or other activities not) listed above?

    • Jen says

      I think, that the author might mean, that however you are in solitude is what would constitute your character.
      For example; if you enjoy relaxing, sleeping, reading, showering, watching tv, then your character would just be kind of mellow, relaxed.
      If you decide that instead of doing all of the relaxing things you wanted to do for that day and then you instead decide to do some chores around the house, some gardening, fix some things that need to be fixed, decide why not go to the supermarket and get something fresh to cook for a nice dinner, then came home and enjoyed yourself a delicious meal after a long day of busy work, I would then personally think your character would be more determined, driven, caring, loving, appreciative.

      Hope that makes sense.
      Take care, : )

    • Carol K says

      Maybe a better way to explain it would be to say our character is revealed by what we do when no one is watching. The simplest example I can think of is going 80 miles an hour until you see the highway patrolman sitting on the edge of the road. There are other, probably more important, ways our character is revealed when we are alone (no one is watching). Do we stretch the truth, take what is not ours? Are we kind to those who can’t report our unkindness? If the cashier gives us back more change than we should get, do we tell him or her or just leave, knowing it’s not our money or even seeing it as a windfall? Hope that helps.

      • Joe says

        But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭17-18‬ NLT)

  5. says

    Loved every one on the list, except #18.

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
    – Lord Acton 1887

    I saw that you did make a good distinction, but generally defaulting to the “good” of authority isn’t always the best course of action.

    An example might be the authorities at the NSA and their recently revealed lying to congress, and undisclosed spying on Americans.

    Of course, #18 is heavily political and debatable in nature … so I will say I can also see your point as well.

    Maybe “balanced authority?”

  6. Alex says

    I love this list! However, #20 isn’t sitting well with me. I understand what it’s trying to say for the most part. As a recovering alcoholic who has over 7 years of sobriety, it bothers me. Anyone who knows anything about substance addiction knows that self-control and will power have nothing to do with maintaining sobriety. Diseases like this aren’t just willed away by self-control. Alcohol withdrawal is one of the only substances that can actually kill a person in certain circumstances. Addicts and recovering addicts have a difficult enough time without having to deal with false notions from others about self-control. There is already tons of misinformation about addiction out there. There is no need for more.

    • Cas says

      I think you have a valid point. But, do you think it’s valid to say that one needs to feel like they have some control over alcoholism and that they are not just subjected to the whims of it as a disease? Because assuming that you have no control over it would, I think, be very discouraging.
      After a diagnosis of cancer, one might not have much control over the cancer itself, but they can make healthy choices that may help them better fight it.
      Maybe “self-control” isn’t the best term, but I understand that taking control over your decisions is empowering. (ie: in the case of alcoholism, maybe it’s suggesting you meet friends at a coffee shop vs. a bar, as a simple example).
      I hope I haven’t offended you. That’s not my intention in response.

  7. Diana says

    Wonderful words, so true. Jesus is the epitomy of all these values which are easier to live by if we look at the life beyond our lives on earth. Everything we do matters for eternity and knowing this changes the way we live. :)

  8. says

    Sorry, but this article made life sound like it’s some boring thing to endure!

    Normally I like all your stuff Joshua, but this one was just too dull!

    An honest opinion and no hard feelings.

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