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Do Americans Define Success Too Narrowly?

Posted Jul 3, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The need to achieve, to stand out, to be somebody has changed Americans’ definition of success.

The need to be exceptional is putting enormous stress on children and overshadowing other characteristics of a life well lived, a New York Times column suggests. “In this world,” says University of Houston professor Brené Brown, “an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life.”

Jeff Snipes, co-founder of PDI Ninth House, a corporate leadership consulting firm, tells the Times that the public often views success in terms of making a lot of money or having superior athletic abilities. “That’s a very, very narrow definition,” he says. “What about being compassionate or living a life of integrity?”

Katrina Kenison, author of The Gift of an Ordinary Day, says she wants to pass on values to her children such as kindness, compassion and a gratitude for life. “My job as a mother is not to get my son in the top college, but to enjoy ordinary life,” she tells the Times. “To swim in a pond on a hot day or walk with a friend or make dinner from scratch.”

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