My 8 success defining questions

A good friend wished me success recently. He followed this with “I am not sure how to define success, it can be many things like just being happy and satisfied with who you are. Less to do with recognition…”

As a self-confessed external validation addict I have spent much of my life searching to feel a sense of being enough through relentlessly striving to have outside sources confirm my worth or dictate I am a success.

I have ticked the boxes on tertiary academic studies, achieving a Master of Clinical Psychology, married, and have brought three children into the world. Wonderful blessings indeed but for a long time significant angst drove a sense of discontentment;continuous doing with an almost frenzied energy around needing to being busy; and sadly a comparison with others against whom I would judge myself as falling short — essentially a sense of feeling inferior or unsuccessful.

I like my friend’s definition of success and I would proudly claim to feel a success these days. Despite a complete mental breakdown just over two years ago which involved a significant period of hospitalization, I feel just as worthy as anyone I meet who may hold claim to common societal symbols of success such as owning a palatial sized home, driving a luxury car, a wardrobe of designer clothing, linkage with prestigious schools or perceived higher employment status.

How Do You Measure Up as a Success?

In terms of my own measure of success, I rate myself on the following questions:

  1. How present am I when interacting with my family and friends?
  2. Am I taking time to mindfully participate in soul-enriching activities such as creative pursuits or community projects that are valuable to me?
  3. Am I tending to being healthiest in my mind and body?
  4. Am I demonstrating self-compassion — accepting myself for all my imperfections?
  5. Am I showing respect and appreciation for every person I encounter, recognizing the limitations we all have as human beings?
  6. Am I regularly looking at the lighter side of life and taking opportunities to laugh?
  7. Am I engaged in (paid or unpaid) work that is fulfilling and meaningful to me?
  8. At the end of each day am I taking time to reflect on the blessings, even the tiniest moments, that give me a spirit of gratitude in my life?

If at the end of each day I can say that my heart was filled with the intention to meet each of the above aspirations then I honestly feel I am a success. It is so freeing to drop the comparisons to typical status symbols of success and just focus on what is meaningful, where one’s passion lies, and living more in the sense of being rather than doing.

The above questions might be a starting point if you are becoming skeptical as to whether your definition of success is bringing you the life you want. This is your life — don’t waste it on a treadmill that isn’t taking you to where you want to be.

Or simply skip the questions and just ask yourself:

What is it that makes my heart sing?

Originally published at