Success…… Vision or Delusion?


“When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you’ve got plenty to watch, be it vision or delusion.”

Anonymous

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 Success is such an empowering word. We think of it and we think of…. Happiness….Self esteem….Superiority…..  facets which enthuse, inspire, pump the adrenalin. Success seems to be   what we live for. What our parents and teachers always exhorted us to do. Scholastically, materialistically, competitively. Success brings forth visions of wealth, power, intelligence and with these the ability to control the outcome of events. All those external trappings. What the world judges us by.

But as I think of success, I also see within it the other paradigm. Of increased self awareness and self development. Of a positive intention and an alignment with a higher purpose. Of that mysterious inner process which ensures personal integrity and a commitment to values. The aspect of success as exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “I must first be the change that I want to see in the world.” Success thus gets linked, not to the external world, but to an inner compass, an inside out initiative.

Which brings me to Vision and Delusion, those two aspects of our mind. We are conditioned to see these as the Good and the Bad on the same spectrum. We see great positivity in Vision but perceive delusion as something to be shed. So as vision becomes that which drives, delusion is that which keeps us lazy. Vision has logic and reasoning supporting it while delusion is immersed in randomness. If we go by this perception, we tend to associate Success with vision and not with delusion. But is this association valid?

 My daughter has this linkage to success. She needs to wear an old watch with a jaded pink band whenever she is writing examinations. She remains convinced that wearing this watch has something to do with her succeeding. The thinking is, “I wore this watch. I succeeded. My success is because I wore the watch.” The watch deludes her into self confidence and purpose; its absence leads to nervousness and lack of focus.

A work colleague of mine has this high belief in his own capability.  Every time he jumps into a fresh project, he deludes himself to over-estimate his own contribution and gives no credence to the positive role of other people or circumstances. So while he gets accoladed as an achiever, I notice him getting increasingly delusional from the success. Do I see shades of Hitler and Saddam Hussein who, in their time, were similarly deluded about their own great power and ability to control events?

Coming to my own self, I can see the several beliefs that have contributed to what success I have seen. Beliefs pertaining to people, situations and work. The other day, when a business associate was proposing a new process, I noticed an instinctive resistance building up within me. I heard myself countering that our prevailing processes brought success in the past so why change. Later when I thought about my negative reaction, I wondered if I had got trapped in my own success delusion, refusing to move with change.

The above provide glimpses of how success gets linked to the outside. But what about success that comes from within?

When we look inwards for that inner success, I believe this requires a balance between mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Success here gets closely aligned to our core values. It is this alignment which allows a clear vision of the future. Of innovative action and a sense of direction. Mahatma Gandhi had such a vision when he undertook the novel path of non-violence to gain India its independence from its colonial masters. Decades later, this also became the power of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

So I come back to the question, “What does success mean to us, a vision or a delusion?”

I believe true success would need to embody both external and inner facets of our existence. Which would mean that both delusion and vision would play a role.  If delusion panders to our emotions, makes us feel optimistic and helps us to aim higher, vision allows us to dream the future and inspires action with imagination and insight. So as our success remains a product of both sides of the Vision- Delusion polarity, the kind of success each one of us achieves depends on the mix of vision and delusion we have created within ourselves.

Could this be the reason for the thin line we often notice between a visionary and a delusionary? Could this have been the reason for the visionary brilliance of Nobel laureate John Nash as he grappled with his schizophrenic delusions, so eloquently portrayed in the film Beautiful Mind?

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