If you are like me and like many other people I know, you sometimes ask yourself just how successful you are. Birthdays and New Years are typical opportunities to do this, but there are many other soft moments, when we find ourselves sitting quietly and thinking, “How is my life going?”
This is actually a good thing, because it provides us a periodic chance to do better and ultimately to feel happier about our life. If the answer is good, we can be happy that our life is on track. If the answer is not so good, we can be happy that we have identified it and start doing something differently until the next checkpoint.
The thing about assessing our life is that we need to make sure we use the right criteria. Now, I typically do not use the word “right”, but in this case, I am here to convince you that it is right to use your own criteria and wrong to use anybody else’s.
You see, if you use any external measurements to gauge the quality of your own life, you are living according to other people’s expectations. In this case, even if you pass with flying colors, you will be unhappy, because your own values are being ignored.
However, if use your own internal values – the things that YOU want to achieve and feel in life – once you start getting close to them, you will be incredibly happy, which will only propel you faster towards more achievement and more happiness.
“OK, so I need to use my own set of standards. Check!
But hang on a second. I am not so sure I know what those are.”
Well, you will be happy to know that many people are in the same position. Unfortunately, when we were kids, we were bombarded with external wishes, demands and expectations, which stuck in our minds as global and undisputed standards that must be used.
If you have ever used the amount of money in your bank account as measurement of your success in life, you will know what I mean. If you have ever used your weight (or normalized weight for your height), the year in which your car was manufactured, the number of new clients in your business, your grades at school or university or even the color of your hair, you will know what I mean.
Who said you must have $10,000 or feel bad? Who said you must weight no more than X kg per Y centimeters to think you are OK? Who said everyone must own a brand new car, have more new clients than last year, top your class academically or be blond?
These are all things you may have heard or read since childhood, but never stopped to reconsider.
“That’s great, but how can I tell what my own values are, so that I can start measuring my life the right way right now?”
Good question (100 points to Gryffindor).
Sit down comfortably, take a few really deep breaths and imagine yourself … dying. You have just enough life left in you to answer one question, “What am I proud of and what do I regret?”
Your partner, your children and your grandchildren are there, surrounding your deathbed, all looking at you in anticipation for your answer. You have lived a long life and you have learned a lot. Surely, your wisdom will inspire them.
“Honey/Dad/Grandpa”, they are asking you, “Tell us what was good in your life and made you proud to be you, so that we may live better. And tell us your regrets too, so we may avoid those things and live better.”
You struggle to take another deep, deep breath and go over your life in your mind – seeing the sights, hearing the sounds and feeling the feelings. You see your younger years and your years at school, your work, your friends, your family, your travels, your holidays and your hobbies. You see the struggles, the good times and the bad. You see the happy and the sad.
What is your answer? Please share it in the comment box below.