If you asked the average person today what defines a successful life, they’d provide you with one or all of the bullet points below.
- A high-paying salary from a respected career.
- Material possessions (an impressive house, expensive car, fancy gadgets, etc.).
- The satisfaction of knowing that you have more than your neighbors, friends, and even your family members.
I’ve always struggled with America’s rationale of what defines a successful life. While I consider myself incredibly fortunate regarding the first two bullet points above, I’m not sure I would classify my life as a success because of them.
Financial stability is essential in providing one with the necessities we all need to live and maintain our health and well-being. But surely, there must be more to defining a successful life than the accumulation of money and material possessions.
At the recommendation of my wife, I recently read the novel The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.
It’s a beautifully written story set in Burma that tells the tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and a passion that genuinely reaffirms the belief in the power of true love in a person’s life.
A young blind man and a disabled young woman found each other quite by accident. They connected so intimately and honestly that their disabilities and poverty were not enough to extinguish the passion, appreciation, and admiration they felt for one another.
From the story: “He expected nothing more from life. Not because he was disappointed or embittered. He expected nothing because there was nothing of importance he had not already experienced. He possessed all the happiness a person could find. He loved and was loved. Unconditionally.”
But the young man’s uncle couldn’t understand how the pair could be so connected and committed to each other, even when several decades and vast distances kept them apart. Focused on the three bullet points I mentioned above, the uncle believed what defines a successful life has nothing at all to do with love.
Admittedly, I’m not doing The Art of Hearing Heartbeats any justice in my vague description, mostly because I believe the story should be experienced individually. Throughout my reading, I was entranced by the tale – unable to describe and discuss its profound impact, and I hope you have the same experience.
While it’s not a popular response to the question of what defines a successful life, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats reminded me of the most definitive answer. True love.
Sadly today, too many relationships are started and destroyed by the superficiality of life we all deem so critical to our societal standing. We admire those with power, money, possessions, and even fame while mocking those who value a truly loving relationship over everything else.
Money and possessions will never provide your life with happiness. It will, however, provide your life with comfort. What defines a successful life is not something you can buy with money, seek out in far-off travels or materialistic possessions, or obtain by raising one’s social or professional status.
True love – one generated by an inner connection built on humility, simplicity, sincerity, and maturity – allows you to possess all the happiness a person can find.