When I was young, there was a lot of tragedy in my life. I had a baby brother who died and a very close uncle who killed himself with a shotgun. Those things, turbulence in my childhood for other reasons, and a naturally questioning temperament made me skeptical of standard definitions of success.
What we are supposed to want is three things: The right job, the right relationship, and the right possessions. If we have these three things, supposedly, we can call our lives successful. But from an early age I saw that those three things didn’t necessarily make people happy–or help them avoid tragedy. So do those things really count as success?
Not to mention that a world population running after the right job, relationship and stuff doesn’t seem to be making for societies that are as “successful” as we would like them to be.
So what should we be chasing after? If those three things don’t comprise the definition of success, what should we count as having a successful life? Over the course of many years of questing, I’ve discovered the standards for the life I want to live. I thought I’d share what it looks like in case it would help you decide what makes your life successful too. The life that feels right:
- Lets me spend my time doing what really matters to me. (I don’t have to work less because I care deeply about my work and lets me be of service to others.)
- Let’s me do what I’m really good at.
- Keeps me safe. (Without being rich, I am taken care of, often in ways that have nothing to do with money.)
- Contains a lot of love. (I have ample time for friends and those I think of as my family.)
- Allows me to feel that I am contributing. (I don’t worry that I’m ignoring or am callous to the world’s problems.)
- Is full of fun and adventure. (New things happen all the time).
- Integrates taking care of my body and my soul. (So I don’t have to fit this in between other things I’m supposed to do.)
- Includes taking time and space to explore my place in the universe. (Call that spirituality if you like.)
- Allows me to do these things not by building large cash reserves but by building a life where what is important to me remains central so I don’t need money to obtain it.
- Helps me relate to the world—through my work, my relationships, my life choices, my living arrangements, my purchases, my civic participation—in ways that contribute to solving our global crises.
That’s my list of what defines real success. It’s not everybody’s list, but it’s mine.
Now here are the two big questions for you:
What is your definition of real success? How can you make it a reality?
PS Defining success for ourselves is challenging. That’s why I am recruiting a group of like-minded friends who gather by video conference once a week for 20 weeks to support each other in discovering and following their truths. Previous participants have really been helped by this. Want to be part of it? Want to know more? Click here to read about the details and apply.
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