Defining Success


“He who knows he has enough is rich.”

~Lao Tzu, Dao De Jing

Starting from a very young age, those around us are teaching us what “success” is supposed to look like. This could be a more direct instruction on what we should be striving for, but it often occurs more subtly through what our parents, teachers, and even popular media idealize and encourage us to do to live a successful life. As a child and young teenager, I was taught by my parents and by my culture that success looks like finding your perfect career, amassing wealth and possessions, and getting married and having children. And for a long time, I truly believed that accomplishing these goals was the only way for me to become successful. That it was the only way to make myself, my parents, and my society happy and satisfied.

The more I thought about it, the more I learned about the world, and the more I looked inward, I realized that these encouragements of others were based on their idea of success, on society’s idea of success.

Similar to my experience, I feel like many of us live much of our life striving towards goals set by others, or goals that others encouraged us to set for ourselves. So, it’s no wonder that we often feel discontentment in our lives even after achieving those goals. The truth is: that there is no single objective model of success. We are all such unique individuals that it’s unlikely what we’ve been told success looks like will bring us the happiness and fulfillment we’re seeking. In my own experience, it seems like the idea of success that was pushed onto me when I was younger was actively hurting my ability to find my own, true sense of success. But if we can’t rely on what others have told us about success, how can we define it? The answer is that our journey to success starts not with looking outward but inward.

To find out what success means to us, we must first recognize how much of our thoughts surrounding success are driven by the expectations of others.

When we set a goal, is this something that we truly believe will make us happy to accomplish, or are we hoping that accomplishing this goal will help us live up to an expectation of a family member, a supervisor, or our culture? Is this goal being set by our hearts? Or is this goal being set by our wounded inner child, just looking for comfort and praise that we only learned to receive from a caretaker by accomplishing what they asked of us?

When we first begin to look deeply into ourselves and ask these questions, trying to figure out our “true” desires and intentions can seem like a daunting task. We might start second-guessing all of our motivations and actions. But as we become more mindful of our thoughts, emotions, and past traumas through mindfulness, reflection, and therapy, I promise that the answers will become clearer.

We have to set our intention to heal and grow, trust in the process, and make sure we listen to our hearts. 

And here at Torus, we help with all those steps of your journey to define what your version of success looks like. We are here to help you set and accomplish goals that will bring you true, internal peace and happiness.

Written by: Caden Hines, MSW Intern