Robin Williams was a brilliant actor and comedian. He was rich, famous and achieved every bit of the American dream, yet he was still human. Even the most successful can suffer from substance abuse and depression. Robin is certainly not alone. There is a long list of celebrities who lost their lives to overdoses or suicide. Achievement, wealth and all those things we typically equate with a dream lifestyle are often not enough.
This post is not really about Robin Williams. I don’t mean this to be any commentary on his life or death. I certainly don’t claim to know anything about his mental state. He was a great man that will be long remembered.
I only mention Robin Williams’ death as a reminder to what is really valuable and important in life.
What is Success?
If rich and famous celebrities can have everything and still not be happy, what does it mean for the rest of us?
I used to love reading personal development books, with their “you can do it if you work hard” message. Those books also did a lot to shape my idea of what success is.
It has taken me a long time to see how much I was corrupted by this type of thinking. There is an underlying message that where we are now is not enough and we need to get more. We need to make more money, buy more, achieve more and do more. It’s all around us. In movies, magazines, books, advertising and even peer pressure.
Personal development gurus teach us to envision our dream house, fancy cars, beautiful spouse and perfect lives. Then they tell us to dedicate our lives to achieving those things.
More often than not, that hard work, striving and material consumption keeps us from what is most valuable and important in our lives.
We’ve been sold the idea that we need to climb mountains, run marathons, write best-selling books, and generally be rich and famous to be successful.
No matter how much we achieve or how much we buy, it’s never enough.
Even worse, that constant striving gets in the way of what we value most. How many of us sacrifice our health, time with family and friends or even the environment in pursuit of material success and other achievements? Too many, unfortunately.
How often do you feel encouraged to consume less and work less so that you can spend more time with family and friends, volunteer more or just follow your own interests? Those arguments don’t work because they don’t generate a profit.
If Not Now, Then When?
The very act of constantly chasing new goals and achievements keeps us from fully living now. The past is done, we can’t change that. The future doesn’t exist. All we have is this moment. It’s impossible to fully embrace and appreciate the now if you are always looking for something more to make you happy.
This North American idea of success or a good life is the problem. Our insatiable wants keep us perpetually dissatisfied and unhappy.
I’m not saying this is what happened to Robin Williams. None of us know his situation or state of mind. He was a genius that I’m sure had a fantastic life overall.
From the impact Robin Williams had on all of our lives for so many years, his death feels like a personal loss to millions around the globe. Unfortunately, it often takes a death of someone close to force us to reflect on how short life really is.
If you had a year or a month to live, would you do what you are doing today?
If time were utterly precious and you knew exactly when your life would be over, it’s likely you’d put your energy toward your family and friends or meaningful causes. You certainly wouldn’t be fighting to spend more time working, watching TV or shopping.
Even without imminent death, our lives are precious. We have a very limited time on this planet. Each and everyone of us is going to die.
The question to ask yourself is:
Are you living this very moment to the best of your ability?
There is no other time then now, so don’t waste a second.