Some days ago I read an article that tells that a palliative nurse wrote in a book the ‘Top five regrets of the dying’, according to his experience in hospitals. The regrets were the following:
1) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
2) I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
3) I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
5) I wish that I had let myself be happier
I have to admit that the point that caught my attention most strongly was the first one, as the others could be more predictable in some way.
In the modern society of the developed countries, we tend to label people as winners and losers, successful and failed. It is in part due to the meritocratic system that we are living in, which at the same time has given us such good things as more equal opportunities. For example, when we see someone driving a Ferrari, we say “that person has been successful in life”, that “he has a good job”. It seems then that the implicit objective of society is “being successful”. All of us look for success. The term success is many times associated to a condition that allows acquiring precious material goods, and having these goods means a certain status and recognition among society.
For some people, being successful in life means having a sail-boat. For others, raising a family and giving the best education to their kids will mean success. For some others, success will mean being free, with no restraints in their life, so that they can always decide for themselves only. For others, success means becoming a surgeon…
I’m nobody to judge the standards of success of others, being whatever they are. What I do wonder, is either this success that we presumably are looking forward to is the one that we truly want, or it is the one that society inflicts upon us. In other words, are we judging personal success through ‘home-made’ or ‘society-made’ parameters? If the answer is the second case, should we be living under the standards of other people? Wouldn’t that make us the prisoners of others? Would we be living another´s life instead of our own? So, why don’t we create our own definition of success, and live life under such parameters?
Some of these questions are addressed in a brilliant talk in TED, given by Alain de Botton.
My own definition of personal success is connected with the idea that when one goes to bed at night one thinks about what he has done during that day, that makes him feel very satisfied within himself. Because as A. Einstein stated, ‘try not to become a man of success but a man of value’.