Life is sweet at home

How to Find Success as a Caregiver?

Companion caregivers can help with transportation and safety.

Are you living your best you? Many family caregivers might say, “I don’t know anymore. I just do what Mom needs.”

Certainly, while you are driving her to endless doctors’ appointments, cleaning her house and preparing her meals, there is very little time to think about who you are and what YOU want.

Given caregiving is either a no-pay or low-pay job and there is always the husband and kids to tend, serving as a caregiver can make the best of us feel like we’re going nowhere. We feel all too put-on-hold and low on the totem pole of success.

However, according to Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D., caregivers and the rest of us need to reframe our picture of success. A well-respected expert in health, well-being and resilience psychology, she suggests in a Psychology Today post that we look at what really, deep down constitutes success. Explains Seppala, “Many people think they are a worthwhile human being if and only if they are successful, powerful, or wealthy or have reached a certain status.”

The job doesn’t “make the man or woman”

Instead of all the externals, the psychologist challenges us to ask a different question, “What are the qualities of the most wonderful person you know?”

Interestingly, most people described wonderful people as those who are “loving,” “caring,” and “present.” Seppala then asked, “Would you say that this person has had a successful’ impact on your life?”

After lots of research, Seppala answers her own question:

And yet isn’t it the wonderful people, the generous, kind, and compassionate ones, who actually do the heavy lifting? Isn’t it they who carry us through life? They are there when we have fallen, they love us when we don’t love ourselves, they care when no one else does, they show a depth of empathy that inspires us to be better people, they laugh from a place of wisdom and peace, they share with us a kindness we don’t find elsewhere. It’s the wonderful people who are the most successful and impactful influences on all our lives, and we are blessed to encounter them. 

How to be wonderful

The article concludes that many of us understand this truth. No doubt, caregivers know deep down that money, fancy cars and jewelry are pleasant distractions, but not all that satisfying.

“The long-lasting fulfillment we seek comes from living a life of purpose, of meaning, of compassion, and of altruism,” said Seppala. “The only aspiration to have is to be a wonderful person for someone else.”

EMMA SEPPÄLÄ is Science Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University and Co-Director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project at Yale University. She is the author of The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. Her field of expertise is health psychology, well-being, and resilience. This research was highlighted in the documentary film Free the Mind.