How Do You Measure Success?

“My son is a success.” “My daughter is a success.” “I am a success.” “My son is a failure.” “My daughter is a failure.” “I am a failure.”

Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties we have as individuals and as parents or grandparents is measuring success. What is success? In the end, does it matter? By whose standard are we measuring and what is the measure: money, happiness, health, love, intelligence, or even eternal life? Can you really measure success?

In my opinion, NO, you cannot measure success. BUT, you can measure the behavior elements that predict success and it all boils down to one thing: coherent brain function. You cannot make money, love, have good health, learn, or even prepare for death without being coherent—you have to think clearly and logically about whatever is important to you.

You might say, “Love is not logical, it makes no sense.” Perhaps you fell in love, or lust, illogically, but I am certain you do not stay in love illogically. It takes forethought, hindsight, insight, and just plain work to stay with someone and grow your relationship over years or decades, “until death do you part.”

The part of the brain that allows you insight, foresight, hindsight, and even the ability to “work” on anything is the frontal part of the brain known as the frontal lobes. Without well-functioning
frontal lobes, all proactive behavior is difficult. Some of us are born without good frontal lobe activity. It is known as Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD. There are many other reasons for poor frontal lobe function as well: mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.

Traumatic brain injury or concussion is more impairing than we realized, even long after the concussion. Then there are drugs of impairment like alcohol, marijuana, benzo, or opiate pain medications. The frontal lobes are vulnerable to many things.

It is difficult to achieve success without well functioning frontal lobes, whatever the cause. The good news is frontal lobe functioning is measurable and most of these problems are correctable. I developed a simple tool to measure treatment. For frontal lobe function, I use a 0-10 scale measuring the ability to focus, task, and organize, especially on boring tasks.

If you score below 5/10, you are probably impaired in your frontal lobe function. You can improve. I have many patients achieving 8, 9, or even 10/10 after proper treatment. It changes their lives and it changes their ability to succeed. Fewer things have given me more pleasure as a physician than helping people succeed when they, or significant others, felt as though they were failing.

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