What makes a life happy or successful?

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Over the weekend, I delivered a talk on success in different cultures. What constitutes a happy or successful life? We all use a different yardstick, of course. Maybe a combination of family time, career accomplishment and financial security? A Mercedes in the driveway? Designer clothes? An Oscar?

Let me tell you about one of the most successful people I’ve met. I’m not talking about a world leader, nor a famous athlete … in fact, no-one who would headline a Vegas show, walk the red carpet or stand on a dais.

She was a six year old girl, and I met her while I worked for a time at a rural leprosy hospital in India.

Every morning at first light, she would appear, holding the hand of her four year old brother. Her baby sister, perhaps six or eight months old, was tied to her back with cloth. Each was smaller than the last, like a set of Russian nesting dolls.

Every dawn she got them up, organized and saw to it that their faces were scrubbed clean. She then presented them for their first meal of the day. Often, it was their only meal of the day. Apparently one parent had died, the other had disappeared, no one seemed to know for sure. I often wonder how she is today.

What does a happy or successful life mean to you? From the smallest thing to the big picture, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. says

    On October 3, thirty high sohocl students from Mount Si’s Key Club visited the homes of two elderly folks in North Bend. Armed with gloves, garden tools, and determination ..they set out to offer assistance to these homeowners where the labor had simply become too big an obstacle. The students split and stacked firewood, trimmed overgrown bushes and hedges, brought garden beds back to objects of beauty, raked leaves, and filled an enormous trailer with discarded and rotting lumber that was taken to the dump. The best part of this endeavor was the smiles and hugs given by the homeowners to these high sohocl Key Clubbers. That so many showed up at their homes to Pay it Forward was overwhelming and one of the most heart-warming experiences I have seen. Way to go Mount Si Key Club!

  2. Christina says

    To me a happy and/or successful life is to be grateful for everything that brings you that happiness and success. I have taken so much for granted, and it’s not until it’s too late, or the moment has passed that you realise the loss or opportunities missed. A happy day for me these days is to know I’ve made someone, whomever it may be, smile or laugh that day.

    • Alicia Young says

      Hi Christina,
      I think we’re all guilty of taking something for granted at some point. The important thing is that we tune into that. Your last line puts it all into perceptive.
      Thanks for posting, always lovely to see you here.

  3. Theresa Ann says

    Happiness to me is being with my children and husband. Right before my head hits the pillow every night I listen to the silence of our home and pause in prayer that we are all safe and healthy under one roof. There are several small things or pleasures that bring me joy such as a good run, especially on a crisp fall day, a unexpected phone call from a good friend, a page turner of a book, snuggling with my boys, good music, tasty red wine, fresh french bread with cheese, traveling in Europe…. I could go on and on about what makes me happy. But I think overtime I have realized that life is filled with an abundance of wonderful moments, everyday small happenings and gifts are all around. Grab.Them. All.

  4. Jeannie says

    Wonderful post, so much to be thankful for when you hear or read stories like this where this beautiful child is living a life way beyond her years and sadly knows no different. For me the simple things in my life now is what leaves me feeling happy, be it that smile, hug or kiss from family, so very grateful.

  5. Jeannie says

    Wonderful post, so much to be grateful for when you hear or read of stories like this, that beautiful girl is living a life way beyond her years and sadly knows no different. For me it’s the simple things today that I realise give me happiness whether it be that smile, hug or kiss of family, I’m forever grateful.

  6. says

    Less is more. I hear so much about how happy those with so little can be. Is it just outside Western cultures? Media can make you feel like a failure. Best to surround yourself with people you love and love you back; that’s where you will find success.

  7. Holly says

    Hi Alicia,
    A truly inspirational post! We often measure our success by how much money we earn, our academic success, the number of friends we have on social media sites or how many tangible items we possess! We don’t need to measure kindness, cultural sensitivity or happiness, we just need to make these part of our everyday life and positive things will flow from there. I was moved by your story of the young girl in India and her daily challenges in order to help her siblings. We take so much for granted. I enjoyed reading Debi’s post too and hearing about her life experiences, both posts were are very thought provoking. Thank you. X

  8. says

    Alicia, thank you for the beautiful post. Success is to infuse every moment of our lives with intention. Only when we merge our inner purpose (connection with God, or Spirit) with our outer purpose (what we do,) we are truly successful.

    • Alicia Young says

      Hi Cloris, I agree, intent makes all the difference.
      Without it as a general framework in how we approach out day, I think we’re sort of blowing in the wind …
      Lovey to see you here, thank you!

  9. Debi says

    Hey Alicia, what a lovely blog – when we were travelling in Asia, I was struck at the happiness in people’s eyes and the connections they fought to maintain with family and friends in such travesties of cultural abuse (Tibet mainly). For them, it seemed to me that they were saying ‘ok it is what it is & we will make the best for ourselves – we are not victims’. Without being able to communicate with language, they taught me so much – accepting how things are but fighting peacefully for what is right. My view of success has changed enormously over the years and for me right now there are two things: finding your own truth to walk your own journey, and understanding that to truly experience life to the full, there are no end goals, the experience of the journey itself is the goal!! I am reminded of a verse in a poem:

    The journey is the place where discovery unfolds;
    The journey is the pleasure, there is no goal.

    On another note, congratulations on ‘author of the month’ – what a fantastic achievement, and hugely deserved. X

    • Alicia Young says

      Hello Debi!

      You always post such thoughtful remarks, thank you. Your experience of Asia really touches me – especially the quote, and the part about choosing not to be victims. That speaks to a powerful mindset, and one which is proactive, not reactive.
      On another note, thanks too for your support, as ever. I’m chuffed to be featured by @Pauline Wiles!

      Alicia xx

  10. Alicia Young says

    So lovely to see your name pop up, and thanks for posting! You’ve hit the nail on the head – at the end of the day, it really does come down to love.

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