At the beginning of each new year, many of us engage in the exercise of reflecting upon our lives, pondering the successes and failures of the past year, making resolutions, and setting goals. The aim of these exercises is to achieve success in our life. But what does it mean to be successful? What is success?

Does the accumulation of money and material possessions represent success? This is a tricky one. While money may be the fruit of hard labor or ingenuity, or an indicator of success, money in and of itself does not make one successful. Money ultimately is a tool, and it can be a tool for good or evil.

1 Timothy 6:10 warns us that the love of money is the root of all evil. Why is this the case? It is because money is a poor foundation for one's spirituality, and a poor substitute for a relationship with the Almighty. On the flipside, the lack of money brings its own set of misery and temptations. Being constantly preocuppied with one's inability to make ends meet cannot be considered as the hallmark of a successful life.

In the song "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. said "the more money we come across, the more problems we see." Managing money is a challenge for all of us, rich or poor, and managing a fortune can be very stressful. We may have some concept of the power of money, but we may not fully appreciate the inner strength and discipline required to manage it properly without letting it control us, or we may allow ourselves to use money to buy things that will ultimately destroy us. Regardless of how much money we have, we can choose to use it to express generosity or to express generosity to those in need.

What about fame? Is a famous person a successful one? Many people believe so. At one point in time, it took years of study, honing a craft, working as an apprentice, and paying dues to become famous. Today, it is easier to become famous than ever before. The power of the Internet and websites such as YouTube make it possible for anyone with skills and nerve to reveal his or her talent to everyone in the world with an Internet connection.

Many people are working too hard for money or seeking fleeting fame. They either do not know or choose to ignore the fact that money and fame can bring misery and destruction if not handled properly. The list of rich, beautiful celebrities who lived hard and died young is a long one, and it will undoubtedly continue to grow.

Being a person of integrity and good character is invaluable. It may bring pleasure to be recognized by the masses for your accomplishments, but enduring satisfaction comes when you are truly satisfied with the person you see reflected before you in the mirror each day.

Success, then, is not making money or becoming famous. Success is being the prime actor in the story of your life as you become the best individual you can be. It is developing your talents and gifts to the greatest extent possible and using your well-honed talents and gifts to accomplish whatever is in front of you.

It is important to understand that success does not mean you should attempt to emulate another person whom you believe is successful. Your individuality is precious, and as the United States Constitution says, in the sight of God, all men and women are created equal. Therefore, the road to success begins with recognizing your uniqueness and taking steps toward self-realization.

You are not responsible for the circumstances of your birth, but as an adult, you are responsible for your life. Though you may have tough personal and physical challenges, and though you may numerous obstacles in front of you, you can commit to doing the best with the cards you have been dealt and commit to give life your best. Success does not mean you will always cross the finish line first, but if you know you gave your all during the race, you will know deep down that you were successful.

I know of a cashier at a fast food restaurant who is so enthusiastic about his work that he became the subject of a documentary! He has made the decision to pour his heart and soul into his work, and he has become recognized well beyond the employee of the month wall at his restaurant.

We are all capable of doing our best at what life presents to us. If you are a bus driver, you can strive to be the most courteous, conscientious, and safe bus driver in your city. And by doing so, you may well find yourself in a position of greater responsibility and higher pay. Of course, since you have already established successful work habits, you will surely continue to enjoy the harvest of your labor and your good attitude.

Success in life consists in doing your best at the things only you can do. When you live your life with decency and in a way that earns the love and respect of family and friends, you will travel through life with a great deal of self-satisfaction and with gratitude from those you have helped along the way.