Are You After Your Version Of Success?


In my many bouts of depression, the one thing that’s the same was: I felt limited.

It would start with things seeming okay on the outside –

People commenting how “great” my life was or how “fortunate” I was when all I felt was a void inside of me and I felt this yearning for more that I couldn’t define.

I would feel very defensive when people told me “you’re lucky” and my immediate response would be “you think?” 

Last week, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain took their own lives. A lot of people felt affected by their choice.

Why would someone who had “success” choose to end their lives? 

Success is subjective. 

Times have changed a lot since we were taught of what a “successful life” meant.

Yet very few of us take the time to really define what that means and are perhaps chasing after our parents’ definitions of success… or our younger selves’ version of success.

One of the quotes that I live by today is from Thomas Merton –

People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” 

Here are 3 signs that you’re on the wrong ladder:

1. When someone greets you, “How Are You?”, it’s a struggle to say “I’m fine.”

I’ve seen so many incidents that people turn away or pretend not to hear the response that is opposite to “I’m fine”. We’ve bought into this belief that we need to be extremely positive for life to work for us.

We’re taught to have the “willpower” to stay strong and be optimistic and our anxiety will go away. But our issues are valid – the negative feelings are as important as the positive ones.

When you’re wanting to respond with “my life is a mess” each time someone asks you how you are, rethink the ladder you’re on.

2. When things overwhelm you, you drink alcohol or eat junk food. And it’s becoming a daily occurrence.

In general we have a very low pain tolerance – especially that of emotional pain. So when we feel things that we can’t describe, we tend to numb it out – because it’s easier than feeling into the pain.

Alcohol or junk food is normally what people turn to when they went to numb what they’re feeling. Because of the discomfort of the emotions that may be odd or may be too overwhelming, doing something seem to be a quick fix and drinking alcohol/ eating junk food gives certain numbness that allows a person to delay facing the issues at hand.

3. When someone asks if you’re happy, you can’t respond and then you can’t come up with a reason other than “I don’t know what I want.”

Desires change. We have this habit of setting goals but when we reach them, we don’t normally set the “next” goals. And suddenly we’re at loss.

This is perhaps a reason why people don’t set attainable goals. How many of your new year’s resolution are you really achieving?

So start with making simple choices such as ordering in a restaurant: don’t say “whatever works” because that makes your decision-making muscle weak.

When you easily make the small choices, the big choices are easier. Clarity comes and answering “what do I want” is easier.


Blessing of miracles,