A Word on Mental Health

What is Success?

By Michael Kimmel

For the past month or so, I’ve been asking myself this question. I read about billionaires and celebrities and wonder: “Is that success?” I listen to TED talks by famous meditators and enlightenment gurus and ask: “Is that success?” I look at beautiful people like John Stamos and Britney Spears and – as I read about how they’ve suffered despite their gorgeousness – I question: “Is that success?” 

Here are some ways to look at “success”: I’ve included “action plan” possibilities if, in some areas of your life, your success isn’t quite where you want it to be.

Material success – This is all the “stuff” in your life: a home, car, clothes, vacations, food, money, investments.

Possible action plan – Make two columns, in the first column, list all the stuff in your life that makes you happy. Prioritize it. In the second column, write down how it makes you happy. Now, start with the least important of your “stuff” and ask, “Could I still be happy if I didn’t have this in my life?” 

Physical success – This is your health, beauty, strength, endurance and flexibility. People say, “If you have your health, you have everything”. But, health at twenty isn’t the same as health at forty or sixty. Are you doing the best you can to make peace with your body now? Or are you fighting every physical change with a barrage of diets, trainers, syringes full of Botox and expensive anti-aging creams?

Possible action plan – I love the question: “How old do you feel if you didn’t know how old your body was?” I usually feel as if I’m somewhere in my mid-thirties to early forties. That’s how old I feel inside. Notice the difference between this age and your biological age. What makes you feel young inside that you can bring to your external (“real”) life now

Emotional success – At any given moment, what are you feeling? Are you content? Fairly happy? Is your mind at ease or full of dread? How much are you able to enjoy life? When bad things happen, can you bounce back quickly or do you fall apart?

Possible action plan – If your overall emotional tone isn’t great, then some fine-tuning might be helpful. When you’re worried or depressed, what lifts you up? Can you identify triggers that bring you down? If you have an ongoing emotional problem, are you open to getting professional help to really tackle it? That’s what it might take…ask me how I know!

Social success – Do you have a great partner? A wonderful circle of friends? A loving family? Terrific colleagues at work?

Possible action plan – Determine if you’re content with the people in your life, or not. If not, what’s missing? Once you figure that out, ask people who know you well: “How can I cultivate these kinds of relationships?” Or maybe you just want to improve the relationships you already have. One thing I periodically ask my friends: “How can I love you more?” I’ve gotten some pretty amazing answers.

Spiritual success – Do you have a connection with something “bigger” or “greater” than us humans? Your spiritual life could take place in a church (alone or with others), a meditation hall (at home or on a retreat) or on a peaceful walk in the woods. For me, dancing in clubs used to be one of my most spiritual places: I felt really “high” when I was dancing with a crowd to music I loved: and it wasn’t the alcohol or other substances that got me there. The song “This is my church” was true for me when I was on the dance floor and everything was going right.

Possible action plan – What lifts you up when you’re down? Do you have any connection with something greater than yourself? Whether you call it God, Buddha, Jesus,  Mohammed, Higher Power or Mother Nature, is there something/one that brings you comfort and solace? It needn’t be traditionally religious, if it works for you, consider it “spiritual”.   

In summary, however you define “success”, I invite you to use these ideas to fine-tune how successful your life is now. And if it’s already good, know that it can get even better!