09/28/2015 11:16 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Success Isn't What Everyone Thinks It Is

We're all looking for it -- success. But what is it and how can we get there?

Photo by bernavazqueze

When the veils, garbs and blindness of success, fame and money are lifted, a person is left wondering, "is that it?" Introspection is a worthy, noble thing. Without it all the famous footballers, sportspeople, businessmen and politicians would care not for a moment what effect their actions have on the thousands, even millions who watch them, adore them, listen to them and even worship them, let alone what effect their actions have on themselves.

Is that what is to be pined for, to be striven for -- to become like them, simply for fame or money? Or is there something else, more noble, worthwhile and lasting which we may term as "success"?

Whether those we call successful and famous care for others or even themselves is a matter of introspection. It's easy to lose track of what matters when you're immersed in fame, luxury and success. However these things never last and often give rise to arrogance, egotism and disillusionment in the long run which is why we must always self-reflect and redefine what success actually is.

It can't be fame since we find many actors and celebrities die of depression, overdosing on drugs. Nor can it be power when leaders and politicians are ousted and defamed on a regular basis while those who are on the lower rungs of the ladder work themselves to exhaustion and even death. Can success be equated with wealth then? Well how can money or possessions be the cause of happiness when there is still a burning desire for power, influence and recognition? No, money can't buy success or happiness, nor can we equate success with anything material.

There is something more to this mundane, worldly and transitory existence. This is something testified to by many millions of adherents to religions and spirituality awakened souls. We are forevermore on the search for what we are meant to become, what path to take and how we can get there, if indeed we can. In a time when many theories, philosophies and ideas are thrown about, we lose sight of what makes us happy and feel as though we have succeeded. A man at peace can be content living in a hut while one can be living in palaces yet be malcontent. This is a phenomenon too true and one which many are realizing today.

Success certainly isn't what your parents want you to do or what society pushes you towards or what your culture thinks is right. Every day, people find how following the expectations of others leaves them disillusioned, discontent and ironically unsuccessful. The very pursuit of success (the false sense of success) which we are pushed towards by the world is what inevitably breeds our failure. In fact, at times it is that very failure we need to realize where our true success lies. This held true for Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling and Bill Gates who not only have followed their destiny and achieved success after battling expectations from those around them, but have also managed to succeed in a way which benefits the world, gives them fulfillment and is free from the ills which comes with most fame and success.

The very pursuit of what is deemed as "success" is killing the initiative, creativity and prosperity of our people. It drives students to suicide in Asia, disillusionment, confusion and dissatisfaction in Europe and anger elsewhere. The pursuit of success itself is a false notion, what should be pursued is development of self, purification and trust in yourself -- for trusting your heart and your inner voice amounts to trusting in the inner faculty God has implanted in each one of us which tells us which direction to go. Call it our moral compass, the soul or our sub-conscious, we all have it.

However, how do we know if it really is leading us right? This is why the quote "successful are those who purify themselves" resonated with me so much. The person who purifies his mind, heart, body and therefore soul of all vain desires, egotistical passions and false pride will augment his sense of self and sense of right and wrong. This will then direct his heart aright. We should remove all obstacles to leading a pure, simple and clean life for in this is lasting joy, contentment and purity. This is nothing less than what the great spiritual and moral, religious teachers have taught mankind. Whether it was Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Abraham, Confucius or any other, they all shared a common purpose and teaching striving to illuminate mankind and draw them out of the dregs of infernal existence otherwise known as the passions of greed, rancour, hatred, malice, jealousy and contempt.

Similarly, success is individual to all of us and as long as we follow and augment our inner voice and moral compass, we can be sure that it'll lead us to where we're meant to go. But for that, we must purify ourselves of negativity and degradation.

In this age of materialism and vice, another such religious teacher seeks to impart and reassert the same principles and values once taught by the former ones. In a hamlet of the Punjab, India named Qadian, a man was born who claimed to be the Messiah awaited by all major religions of the world and prophesied in world religious scriptures. His name was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He said he came in the name of all previous Prophets and Divine religious teachers to unite mankind in the Latter Days through truth, love, peace and prayer. I'm one of his many millions of followers.

In his early days, his father also wished for him to get gainful employment somewhere at which his reply was that his father worried unnecessarily and he was already employed to Whom he wished to and wasn't interested in employment by men. He put his trust in God and wasn't interested in wealth, fame or glory. He was content reading books, living in solitude, studying religion and holding discussions with friends and acquaintances.

It is his teaching that neither wealth, power nor any kind of worldly acclaim can lead to salvation or lasting peace. True success is in purifying one's self of all negative, harmful, immoral thoughts, beliefs and practices, for in this lies lasting prosperity.

"Verily, he truly prospers who purifies himself" -- Holy Qur'an 87:15