NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Redefining Happiness and Success For Yourself

Developing your own definition of happiness and success for yourself is part of an important personal growth and development process.

Redefining Happiness and Success For Yourself

Throughout the different stages of your life, you could find yourself redefining what happiness and success means to  you as you grow and change.

It's not unusual for people to change what they want, especially as they approach midlife and reevaluate their lives (see my articles:  Midlife Transitions: Reassessing Your Life and Midlife Transitions: Living the Life You Want).

Sometimes, what seemed important at an earlier stage in your life becomes less important later on in life.

Maturity, life experience, losses, aging, surviving a serious illness and other important experiences can contribute to your need to reevaluate your life and what makes you happy.

The following brief fictionalized scenarios are examples of how people change their minds about what's important to them:

Larry came from a long line of doctors in his family.  His great grandfather, grandfather, father and older brother were all doctors.  So, from an early age, his family urged him to follow in his family's footsteps to become a doctor.

Redefining Happiness Success For Yourself

Although Larry was interested in painting, his father urged him to forget about his artwork and concentrate on science and math.

Fifteen years after Larry graduated from medical school, he was a successful cardiologist at a prestigious hospital, but he was deeply unhappy.  Although he cared about his patients, he was disenchanted with all the changes in the health field and he longed to get back to painting.

Burnt out and at his wit's end, he began therapy to explore what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.  Gradually, over time, Larry realized that he allowed his family to dictate what it meant to be successful and happy because he didn't want to disappoint them.  And, although he was good at taking care of his patients, he wasn't nurturing himself.  So, he decided to cut back on his hours to give himself time to paint.

Once he began painting, he felt more emotionally integrated and approached his work as a cardiologist with a new sense of purpose and devotion.  He also began to think about spending more time painting when he retired.

Mary spent most of her adult life in banking.  She started as a teller and worked her way up to a position as a managing director.  Although the work was financially rewarding, Mary felt that something was missing in her life.  She was two years away from retirement and she found herself daydreaming about running a bed and breakfast in the country.

Initially, she pushed these thoughts out of her head because they seemed so far fetched to her.  But, over time, as this daydream continued to occupy her thoughts, she realized that she needed to pay attention to them.

Redefining Happiness and Success For Yourself
When she approached her husband about it, he was surprised at first because Mary had never mentioned this to him before.  But the idea of moving out of the city, living in the country and running a small bed and breakfast began to appeal to him.  Their children were already grown and on their own.  With their retirement savings, they could afford to do it.

The main challenge for Mary was that, since she was in her early 20s, she had defined herself, to a large extent, based on her career in banking.  She was also very successful in her field and she derived satisfaction from being recognized as successful.  Retiring from banking and running a bed and breakfast would be a big change.

As she discussed her daydreams with her therapist, she began to feel more comfortable with the idea of making plans for this major change.

Martin spent his 20s working as a flight attendant.  Although he loved the travel benefits, he found the work uninspiring.

After a close friend died suddenly from a brain aneurysm, Martin began to reevaluate his life.  He realized that life is short and he wanted to do something that had meaning for him.   But he didn't know what he wanted to do.

Feeling lost and confused, he began therapy to explore these questions.  As he opened up to his internal experience in therapy, he realized that he wanted to help others.  Exploring many options by talking to people in various medical and social service settings, he decided to become a social worker.

Redefining Success For Yourself

Although giving up the travel benefits was hard, as Martin began his first internship in the social services field, he knew that he had made the right choice.  Working with children and seeing the difference that he made in their lives was the most fulfilling experience of his life.

These fictionalized scenarios are just a few examples of how people grapple with a need for change and a process of redefining what is meaningful to them.

These types of changes are often preceded with ambivalence and anxiety.  In many circumstances, it can feel like you're stepping into the unknown, which is why people going through this process often find it helpful to work with an experienced mental health professional who can help them to understand and work through the underlying issues, including deep underlying fears, that might be holding them back.

Getting Help in Therapy
Asking for help isn't always easy.  Anticipating change can also be anxiety provoking.

If you're struggling with your own definition of what it means for you to be successful and happy or you identify with one of the fictionalized scenarios above, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional.

Working with a licensed psychotherapist, you can explore your own anxiety and ambivalence about what it means to be successful and happy, and overcome the underlying issues that might be getting in your way.

Seeing a licensed psychotherapist to help you to discover what makes you happy can help you to lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.