Alternatives to the Successful Life

I grew up with a father telling me that I must be successful when I grow up. Do something groundbreaking. Change the world. He said it so easy and so true. I believed in it. He made it sound like being successful and having influence over everyone in the universe is a task that is easily achievable, and most importantly, one that I MUST achieve.

Little did I realize that this definition of success I grew into bones is just my father’s own definition of success. Little did I realize that the word “success” can mean different things for different people. Little did I realize that in this process, I was victimized. I felt obligated to search for my father’s definition “success” in everything I did, and I developed mild anxiety and depression in the blind pursuit of a definition of “success” that isn’t even my own.

I would be doing homework one second and suddenly I would fall into wild melancholy, asking myself, “Is this success? How is doing this piece of reading on World War I poetry going to allow you to change the world?” I would be just enjoying to music one day and think that I am wasting time. I was so burdened, so weighed down, so suffocated that I felt like my own life was taken away. I also couldn’t have my own life. I felt obligated to watch a TED talk or listen to a podcast on my way to school instead of just enjoying the music that I love to dance to. I felt obligated to stay at home and read an extra book instead of going out with friends. I felt obligated to do work on an international flight instead of just relax and watch a few movies.

The irony is that I never realized what I was doing was not done out of my own will. I was fed with a definition of success and I was chained by it, like a helpless sea creature that was caught, strained, and tied by seamen. My father has transferred his own definition of success onto me way before I was mature enough to think about what success really means.

What if I don’t want a successful life, in the traditional sense? Since when did “success” become the only parameter to measure a life? What does “success” even mean? Why don’t we measure people’s lives by happiness? or kindness? or generosity? Since when did “success” become the default? There are more than one way to measure someone’s life. I want to offer a few alternatives.

The kind life.

The moral life.

The challenging, but rewarding life.

The self-actualizing life.

The aesthetic life.

The examined life.

:) What life do you want to live?



Yujia HuangComment