Redefining Success: What Creates a Successful Life?

What is a successful life? How do you know if your life is successful? What criteria defines success to you?

Yes, I know. Many people first think about whether they have enough money. It’s hard to feel terribly successful if you’re afraid of losing your house, not able to pay your bills, not able to get out of debt or if you can’t make ends meet.

Ditto if your health is poor, or you’re attempting to recover from an illness or an injury. And also if your marriage or intimate relationship is going poorly—or if you just can’t find a relationship at all that you want. The health and well-being of loved ones also weighs heavily on how we feel about our lives, as does how our jobs or careers are going.

That being said, can you answer the question? What constitutes a successful life for you? One you’d be happy with?

Working too much and not taking time off to rest and regenerate I would not call successful, because you don’t have a good work-life fit, and your life is not in balance. The same goes for spending your “prime time” watching TV every night, eating or drinking way too much too often, chronically numbing yourself through a variety of medications or substances, frequently losing your temper and allowing negative or pessimistic thoughts to overwhelm you. Those are ways to make yourself feel miserable, and feeling miserable definitely doesn’t feel successful.

The following is the beginning of a list of what being successful in life means:

  • Having a close, intimate, engaged and vital relationship that feels good to be in most of the time.
  • Having positive self-esteem and self-worth. Liking, trusting and accepting myself, believing in myself, and acting on that belief with positive behaviors and life-affirming actions. Being on my side without having to be against anyone else.
  • Having a sense of efficacy: that I’m capable of taking on new challenges effectively, or capable of mastering new things if I put my attention and energies there.
  • Making myself proud. Feeling proud of what I do (or have done), what I’ve accomplished or experienced, how I come across to others or how I handle myself.
  • Finding a sense of meaning in my life’s tasks or in my day-to-day work. Gaining a feeling of achievement, meaning and purpose from what I do, and being engaged in the activities of my life.
  • Having about as much sex as I want, give or take.
  • To have close, functional relationships with everyone who matters to me, and being able to successfully clean up problems with each of these people when issues or conflicts arise.
  • The ability to relax and have down time every so often, which may include entertainment, recreation, vacations, travel, leisure time and idle time.
  • Taking good physical care of myself, including eating healthy, exercising, going for appropriate medical checkups and doing other self-care activities that keep my mind, body and spirit healthy and vital.
  • Being able to take a day off when I want. Perhaps not all the time, but at least some of the time.
  • If you are a parent, feeling like you’ve done right by your kids, and that you’ve not done wrong to them.
  • Fun. Having stimulating or joyful activities that you engage in every so often.
  • Integrity. Acting with honor and honesty in your dealings with the world. Both you and others can trust your words, agreements and promises.
  • To be in control of my temper. Also, my ability to hear someone else’s hurt or displeasure without responding with my own anger, revenge, mistrust, withdrawal or defensiveness. To be able to do this allows me to be able to get along with others more harmoniously, and other people do not feel like they are walking on eggshells around me.
  • Openness to self-improvement, new experiences and new people. Being receptive and interested in being a better version of me.

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