Some 10 years ago, I received a postcard from an alumna about a news item in another

College publication, on a national study of the success rates of Ph.D.s who had done their undergraduate work at women's colleges. She complained that the focus was on "PhDs" only and asked for an issue of the Bulletin that addressed 'success' and 'excellence' and that defines these constructs."

We saw this as an opportunity to tackle the so-called "Class Notes syndrome": "My life, once examined, doesn't measure up to much" and invited alumnae/i to submit essays on their definitions of "success" and "excellence," in general as well as for specific endeavors.

We thought we worded our invitation to encourage writers to challenge or to defend conventional definitions as they chose. For example, we asked if readers distinguished among "competence," "self-realization," "excellence" and "success." We suggested that they might wish to address the implications of basing definitions on any of these criteria: "high-status" occupations; rank; income; productivity; fame or awards; quality of product; landmarks such as records, "firsts," discoveries or inventions; life partnerships; child rearing; friendships; and citizenship (individual response to membership in a community).

We received only several responses, all rejecting the notion of success based on prestige, renown or remuneration. One sent us a quote from Everyday Zen, by Charlotte Joko Beck (Harper San Francisco, 1989): 'Aspiration and Expectation': 'Aspiration... is nothing but our own true nature seeking to realize and express itself. It may not be pleasant, but it is always satisfying. Expectation, on the other hand, is always unsatisfying. ... As long as we look outside ourselves for some reward in the future, we are bound to be disappointed... '

In a survey conducted in July 1993 for Working Woman magazine by the Roper Organization, 79% of the 1,027 men and women polled (I don't know the age range or how responses broke down according to age) associated a happy family life or relationship with being successful, and 65% said having time for family and friends is next.
Asked to choose three out of seven things that would make them feel personally successful, the survey respondents ranked the traditional trappings of money, career and power dead last.

One of the survey's biggest surprises and most important findings was the difference between how the satisfied and the not-so-satisfied defined success. People who call themselves very satisfied have a much less traditional, more people-oriented view of success than those who say they're somewhat or very dissatisfied.