One person’s success

March 17, 2011 at 4:33 am Leave a comment

Recently, I was speaking with someone who told me that he worked over 100 hours a week during his twenties, and 70 hours a week in his 30s, 40s and 50s. That gave me pause, as I struggle to work the mandatory 8 hours I’m expected to each day. The difference, of course, may be that he is passionate about what he does, whereas me, well, I consider it a means to an end. I don’t hate my job, but I certainly don’t dream about it.

We each have a different measure of success, that goes without saying. The person in question is wealthy and well respected in his industry. For him, success is creating value in society. And creating wealth. But is that how I define success for myself?

To me success is stability, doing meaningful work, creating a legacy, enjoying the company of family and friends, earning enough wealth to do the things I want to do, and creating value. My happiness is directly correlated with how much my life is aligned with these goals. Currently I’m facing obstacles in my path to achieving success: for one, I don’t feel the work I do at my job is terribly meaningful; and while I have friends, I have not yet been able to create a family of my own; and I do not feel that I earn enough to live the way I would like to. It’s clear I have some work to do.

But knowing what I need is half the battle. It allows me to set my intention, to focus on finding ways to satisfy the needs I’ve identified for myself. It’s so easy, for someone who is recovering from depression, to fall into rumination; to imagine everything that I have missed in my life. There have been opportunities that I was incapable or unprepared to take advantage of but my missing them is no reason for self-condemnation. Being mindful of my weaknesses serves to remind me the next time I see opportunity to not hold back, to take the leap into the unknown and be willing to spread my wings. That can be hard when you’re used to a life-time of limping. Like a muscle achieving success requires exercise.

As I grow stronger, I realize how truly devastating a disease depression can be. For many, many years I held myself responsible for my own incapacity to function. Even though I came from a family of doctors, of psychiatrists even, I didn’t understand that my depression wasn’t my fault. I blamed myself needlessly. It has taken me to my 30s to really acknowledge that there is a life possible outside of depression. And I am proud to say that I have achieved this point without the help of psychotropic drugs. Let me be clear: I am not anti-psychiatry or anti-drugs. But I do believe that drugs are grossly overprescribed. What I have found helpful along my journey to wellness is mindfulness, meditation, making time for friends, taking just a half hour to go for a walk each day, speaking occasionally with a counsellor and making an effort to write regularly. None of these elements on their own is enough to heal me, but together they have created a safety blanket, a space in which I can feel nurtured and cared for.

I consider my rise out of depression nothing short of a miracle, considering it has accompanied me from my early teens and hit its peak in my early twenties. My liberation from this deadly disease may or may not last but while it does, I intend to enjoy the life I have. I am alive, I have survived some pretty dark nights of the soul, and I feel I have something to contribute to the world. That’s a pretty special feeling. To me, that’s the first step toward success.


Entry filed under: Business, Mental Health. Tags: , , .

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