Defining Success Upwards

If you want to get ahead in the world, there's a very simple trick to it - every time you succeed, redefine "success" to a higher level and keep at it. This always springs to mind whenever I read about the present concept of "successful aging."

The literature on successful aging reveals a wide range of definitions, generally reflecting the academic discipline of the investigator. Biomedical models primarily emphasise physical and mental functioning as successful aging; socio-psychological models emphasise social functioning, life satisfaction and psychological resources as successful aging. Several studies also identify these factors as the precursors of successful aging. Moreover, research shows that older people consider themselves to have aged successfully, but classifications based on traditional medical models do not. Fewer studies have explored lay views, and most of these have been exploratory or restricted to specific groups of areas. A model of successful aging needs to be multi-dimensional, incorporate a lay perspective for social significance, use a continuum rather than dichotomous cut-offs for "success" and lack of, and distinguish clearly between predictor and constituent variables.

"A little less degeneration than that guy over there and still dead at 80" has never seemed to me to be a goal worthy of the word "success." We can do so much better than this - but only if we haven't prematurely declared victory and shut up shop.

If you want to fail in life, there's an easy trick to it: just keep defining success down every time that a goal looks like it might take work. Declare yourself a winner right now - after all, there's always someone, somewhere you can point to as an example of your comparative success.

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