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My Take

Success Redefined for Mental Health

Hi everyone, I’m sorry for not writing much lately; I’m getting into the swing with my new job and it’s been busy! I want to write about success today and how I’m trying to define it for myself. I think success is one of those things that over the course of time has accrued a certain definition that we may have come to accept and internalize. I would like to try to reinvent that by opening up the definition again since in my opinion it’s something deeply personal to each of us. 

If we asked 1000 random people what they view as success / what they think of when they hear the word, I’m pretty sure we would see a common theme. We would probably hear things about having a lot of money, owning a large house, driving an impressive car, having a prestigious job, etc. To be honest I really believed in that for a while. Truth be told, before my illness I went through a phase of being obsessed with wealth and possessions as a measure of success. I wanted those things I just mentioned; I didn’t know how I would attain them but it became my ambition.

I’ve learned a lot since then and even though it took a visit to hell and back I’m nonetheless grateful to have learned. Sometimes it takes something huge and painful to teach us about what really matters. Do I wish I’d learned these things in an easier way? Definitely…but regardless of the journey I’m thankful for the destination. It’s funny to say that actually because the idea of a journey and destination will come up again soon. 

Before continuing to pursue this topic I’d just like to clarify that if the above earmarks of success are what you personally believe in and want to attain, there’s no judgment and I’m happy you know what you want. There’s no wrong answer to what success means to YOU. In fact that’s a huge part of my point today. Success is truly what we define it to be for ourselves and if we’ve done the digging and are happy with what we’ve unearthed…that’s really great. However for those of us who thought wealth/prestige/possessions/etc. were our aims but now feel that something is amiss, well, let’s continue our exploration. If you’re starting to feel unmotivated and uncertain about your goals and part of it stems from realizing that you’re working towards someone else’s definition of success, I think you might find this interesting and hopefully helpful. 

It can be a turbulent time when we come to discover that our actions and goals no longer live up to our deepest internal desires and I think this can be a contributing factor to inner instability and anxiety. In my experience and opinion, the repercussions of this can be far-reaching. I believe that self-actualization and fulfillment requires a foundation of understanding our true aims and desires. To help us find out if we’re basing our vision of success on the results of deep personal contemplation, I’ve formulated some guiding questions. 

Guiding Questions

  1. Aside from earning a living, what to you seek from you employment? How important is it that you enjoy your work?

2. Do you see yourself having a family and if so, what do you want that family life to look like? Are you ok with long hours if it ensures a certain quality of living for your family? Or would you prefer to spend more time with your family even if it means a lower salary?

3. What do you consider to be a successful lifestyle? Not what society deems successful; what do YOU see yourself enjoying? Do you want to travel? Do you want a lot of free time? Do you want to create you own schedule / hours? Do you like ordering out or going to restaurants? To you want a busy social life or do you prefer a smaller group of close family and friends?

4. Do you see yourself willing and capable of living with higher stress or is pressure something you’d like to diminish?

5. How important is it to impress others? How important is it for you to have a really high paying job? Do you want a minimalist lifestyle or one of more extravagance?

6. Is the accumulation of wealth and prestige important to you? How much weight do you lend to the opinion of others regarding your lifestyle, possessions, employment, etc.?

7. Do you want to have a lot of time to engage in your hobbies? Do your hobbies require a lot of money?

8. How do you want to view yourself? How do you want others to view you?

9. What kind of personality do you want to exemplify? What are your values and which values would increase your sense of confidence and self-worth?

10. What makes you feel fulfilled? What makes you content, proud and happy?

11. What are your biggest fears regarding mistakes and how do you see yourself avoiding them / resolving them?

12. This is an uncomfortable question, but on your deathbed what will bring you a sense of peace and happiness? What will give you a sense that you truly lived your life to the fullest? What regrets do you want to avoid?

13. How important is your mental and physical health to you? Is health a big part of your vision of success?

14. What are your current goals? How did you come up with them? How much of an influence have others had on your choice of goals? Have you internalized someone else’s vision of what a successful life would be for yourself? Have people told you what would be best for you?

15. If you’re selecting a career or already have, how are you / did you go about it? Whose opinions are you / did you listen to? What made you choose what you did? Who and/or what is influencing your selection?

16. When it comes to your dreams, where do you think they stem from? What resounds with YOU? have people supported and encouraged your dreams or dissuaded and discouraged you?

17. How much do you believe in the statement that life requires paying your dues and doing many things that you’d rather not but that’s just life?

18. What level of ‘unhappiness’ and compromise is normal and acceptable to you? What isn’t normal and acceptable?

19. Order the following in terms of greatest to least importance to you:

  1. Mental health
  2. Being impressive
  3. Physical health
  4. Happiness
  5. Peace
  6. Time
  7. Fun
  8. Exploring new things
  9. Being looked up to
  10. Having many friends
  11. Being respected
  12. Being trusted
  13. Being viewed as kind / empathetic / benevolent
  14. Loving and being loved
  15. Having a partner
  16. Having a child / children
  17. Financial wealth
  18. Freedom
  19. A sense of being an important person
  20. Being praised

Success as a Fluid Definition

On top of how success is highly individualistic, I think it’s also important to remember and accept that our definition of it can and will change. We aren’t stagnant and as we live through new experience our vision of personal success is likely to be modified, changed or added upon. A key concept is that this is perfectly natural and healthy. The more open we are with ourselves and permitting change, the freer we can become to pursue our desires. If we discover that an old desire is no longer making us feel happy and fulfilled, remaining open minded towards modifications is a great way to remain true to ourselves. Success and happiness in my opinion aren’t ‘fixed’ concepts…they’re a path of growth and discovery that bring us closer and closer to ourselves.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope it leaves you with some pertinent questions and thoughts. Next time I’d like to discuss both the fear of failure and the fear of success.

Have a lovely week, and remember to prioritize your personal well-being!

What's YOUR take?