If you had asked me 15 years ago what success looked like to me, one of two things would have happened:

1. I wouldn’t have been able to answer the question and I would have laughed it off. I’d have changed the subject, asked what it looked like to you then excused myself with needing to get to a class or work;

or

2. I would have given a cookie cutter answer about white picket fences, a good job and husband with maybe a kid or two.

At 19 I had no idea what success looked like. I had no idea what I wanted to get out of life and, if I’m completely honest with myself, I didn’t think I would make it as long as I have. 

I will start with the reason I would have given the cookie cutter answer. Truth is, we all want a white picket fence and a good job and a healthy, happy family. My reason for wanting those things was simple: calm, consistency and predictability. For me, those were pieces that had always been missing in my life and that cookie cutter answer summed up what was missing for me.

If I had chosen to brush the question off, it was because I didn’t believe I was going to be around long enough see success in my life. I’d been depressed and out of touch with who I was and didn’t really have a direction or a care for where my life was going.

But now I am some what bombarded with articles, memes and quotes talking about success. So I started thinking:

What DOES success actually look like me?

I started to rattle off the same things in my head (and check a few of them off the list): husband — check, homeowner — check, job that pays the bills — check, kids — check. But I wanted to look deeper than just the surface stuff that everyone sees; that everyone else defines as success. There was something that wasn’t quite adding up for me as I checked things off my mental list. I was detached from the list.

So, what is it that would make me feel successful? What is it that would make me feel unsuccessful in my life? Over and over I came back to the answer: HAPPINESS or a lack there of.

Are my kids are happy (well cared for, provided for, encouraged, loved, laughed), is my home a happy one, am I happy with my job, am I happy in my marriage? All of those are things that can be measured by happiness and, consequently in my case, as successful. I am successful if I am happy (others may want to put satisfied in place of happy, but happy evokes an emotion, it is an emotion, not just a state of being satisfied).

For me to feel successful in my life I need happiness. I need to feel that life is good, that all of those items on my check list are happy, not just satisfied, but really, truly happy.

Based on that criteria, would I consider myself successful? At this point in time, over all, I would say ‘no’. There are lots of things that are going on in my life that don’t evoke a sense of happiness for me, but the one thing that always bring a smile and DOES make me happy are the small moments with my children. They are happy, healthy, loved and loving. For now, I can check one success off my list and I will keep working on the rest.

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