Events of recent months -- business shutdowns, layoffs, financial setbacks, etc. -- have made it hard for many people to feel successful.
But while professional success is important, still: Your definition of "success" surely involves more than just your business or your job.
If you can answer yes to these questions -- even though you may currently be on the downside of advantage and relying solely on courage and hope -- your life is better than you think.
"Can I still make choices that matter?"
Most people simply choose from column A or column B. People who live the life they want to lead often skim over A and B, and then create their own column C.
Every time you want to make any important decision, there are two possible courses of action. You can look at the array of choices that present themselves, pick the best available option, and try to make it fit.
Or you can do what the true entrepreneur does: Figure out the best conceivable option and then make it available.
As the Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote, "Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power."
Some choices get made for you -- but the more choices you get to make for yourself that make a genuine difference in professional and personal life, the more successful you are.
"Can I still choose many of the people I spend time with?"
Surely you know people whose employees drive them nuts. Whose customers are unreasonably demanding and even obnoxious. Who have friends who see friendship as a one-way street.
Sadly, those people remain in their professional or personal lives because they let them remain.
If you're hard-working and you associate with hard-working people, you're successful. If you're generous and associate with generous people, you're successful. If we truly are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, and your inner circle is made up of people you respect, admire, and enjoy, you're successful.
And if it isn't, make a choice that matters and make a few changes.
"Do I still have close friends?"
Close friendships are increasingly rare; a 2006 study found the number of friends respondents felt they could discuss important matters with had dropped by 30 percent over the previous 20 years. (The average person had two.)
If you have more than two or three close friends, you'll benefit from the social connection -- and because the positive effect of close relationships on your lifespan is double what you get from exercising and just as powerful as quitting smoking.
How's that for "successful"?
"Do I still enjoy when others succeed?"
No one ever accomplishes anything worthwhile on their own.
That's why great leaders -- leaders who don't just direct, but who nurture and empower and develop their employees -- have made a key decision: They can find happiness in the success of others.
Even if your business doesn't reach the heights you hope, helping other people achieve their goals and dreams makes you successful.
So does appreciating the achievements of family, friends, peers, of anyone whose creativity, effort, and persistence has paid off.
Because that means your own dreams are still alive.
"Am I still excited (about something)?"
Discipline is great. Discipline is a building block of success. Even so, finding discipline, day after day after day, is also hard.
But when you have a clear line of sight between what you need to do and where you want to go, you don't need discipline. You don't need willpower.
You're eager to do the work, to put in the time, to stay the course. Every task you complete takes you one step closer to achieving your goals and dreams.
When what you do, even if only for the hour or so a day you can manage to carve out, has meaning and purpose, that's a sure sign of success.
And is a level of success that, with time and effort, you can build on.