Life, Stories, Writing

What Is It to Have Succeeded?

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson #Quote #Success #Life

As I look back over my life, the questions haunt me, ‘have I succeeded?’ and ‘how do you define a successful life?’

Success by the worlds standards might include the following:

  • He who has the most toys wins!
  • Building wealth and showing it off!
  • Amassing a large social media following!
  • Having a perfect relationship and a trophy companion!
  • Launching a billion-dollar business that changes the world!

I am sure you can think of many others things that might apply as well.

If you don’t define success for your life, someone else will define it for you.

  • What mountain are you climbing?
  • How do you know if it is the right one at the right time?
  • When you reach the summit will you see your mountain off in the distance?

For me the idea of a successful life has shrunk over the years. Not in terms of impact but in terms of grandiosity and self-serving vanity. The Emerson quote has been a favorite of mine since the first time I read it.

To laugh often and much to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others to leave the world a little better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.

I have stood at the bedside as a last breath was taken and I have no doubt my presence made that breath a little easier. You can read about this in my memoir to be published in 2021 and an update in a previous post here. I pray that I have also helped others breathe a little easier in times of trouble, strife and pain. For what good is a life that offers nothing of value to other human beings, living things and the world around us?

It’s probably not surprising to paraphrase Emerson this is my definition of success >

Now tell me, what is your definition of success?