Do you believe that you've achieved success in life? To put it another way, do you consider yourself to be successful? Chances are, in the eyes of other people, you're successful. For instance, if you're an Emergency Medicine physician, married with two kids, living in a nice home and driving a nice car, to many people you're the epitome of success. Meanwhile, you might be thinking just the opposite, especially on a day where you felt like your ER shift consisted of tedious tending to patients and entering data into the EMR; disagreeing with your spouse over something silly; having your kids jump on you the minute you get home proclaiming they're bored from their day at home on summer vacation; and looking around your home and thinking "what a mess".
Yes, success is certainly not always what it seems. Even well known images of success struggle, just like everyone else, and we all know that "money can't buy happiness", so what is it really? The short answer is that it's different for everyone and the trick is to define it for yourself. Also, success is a moving target, or a continuum if you will, which is why the notion "I will be happy when" never works, maybe in the short term, but rarely in the long term - especially if it's based solely on external factors.
The first step is to become crystal clear about what success means to YOU - not to your parents, spouse, mentor, colleagues, etc., just you. This process isn't always easy to sort out, but with some self-reflection and a look at your values, a roadmap can unfold. The combination of subjective and objective factors creates some guidance around our personal path toward success.
Do you ever reach it? Sure, in the moment, and that's all we can go on. Living in the here and now and being grateful for what we have might be the greatest measure of success. Back to our example above: Pausing to think you have a meaningful career, a spouse and kids to come home to, a comfortable home, and the freedom to live how you want to - sounds like success to us.
“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein