My mother has always been a perfectionist. I probably owe my own OCD qualities to her. I learned early on that my definition of success wasn’t her definition. I vividly remember coming home from a challenging day in high school, proudly displaying my grade on a particularly difficult test. I got a 98, and was ecstatic… yet my moment of pride turned into despair when she frowned at me and asked, “What happened to those other two points?” In the span of a heartbeat my success turned into failure.
Only now, thirty years later, do I realize that only I can be a valid judge of my own success or failure. Perspective is everything. On a recent hot and humid Maryland day my 12-mile goal run became a 6-mile “death shuffle.” Did I fail to complete my initial goal? Yes. Yet was that day a failure? No. No. No. I choose to view my accomplishment as a success. I ran (actually, mostly walked) 6 miles more than zero. Perhaps a seasoned runner (or my mother) would disagree. It matters not. I successfully moved my body for 6 miles when I could have more easily sat on the couch watching “Fixer Upper.”
I have chosen to view my actions and life’s work with gentle compassion. From the viewpoint of compassion I then can celebrate the sometimes small yet significant successes of myself and others.
Bishan Rajapakse, an emergency physician in Australia, shares his story with HealThySelf HealThyWorld on his version of celebrating success and on how he handles the inevitable setbacks that we all face as human beings on our own individual journeys.
A word now to my medical colleagues… As medical clinicians we have very high standards that we must reach daily. Do you second-guess your care in the event of an unfortunate patient outcome? Do you judge yourself harshly if you’ve ever been named in a malpractice suit? Do you define your self-worth based on your patient satisfaction scores? Do you see your life as a string of successes or failures? It’s all perspective. I hope that by reading this you are compelled to reframe “failures” into valid human experiences that become successes by virtue of the fact that they’ve been LIVED through.
Do you have any stories of success or perceived failure that you want to share? Share them here; you are valid, you belong, your stories matter.