I recently read a thought provoking essay about success. The writer — a psychologist, author, and well-known speaker — enumerated his personal definitions of success, a list that, remarkably, had absolutely nothing to do with work, status, or wealth.
I am not proud to admit this, but for much of my life my definition of success has been in lock-step with the American ideal of an impressive job title, a six-figure income, and some vague notion of “being happy” (which, one assumes, is a result of the title and money). And because by my own, limited and critical assessment I haven’t achieved this, I haven’t considered myself successful. This, in turn, has made me feel like a big, fat failure. Not a very nice way to feel.
But this author’s thoughts about success made me wonder: What if my definition of success is all wrong? What if I’ve been unfairly judging myself all this time? What if I’m not a failure? What if the only thing off kilter is my definition of what success actually is? There’s a thought! Inspired, I decided to throw out the hand-me-down definition of success that I’ve been dragging behind me like a ball and chain and consider what I actually believe a successful life looks like from the vantage point of my soul, and not my ego. Here’s what I came up with.
1) Success is being and expressing your true self.
2) Success is having the courage to face your demons.
3) Success is choosing kindness — toward self and others — at every turn.
4) Success is living in love and not fear.
5) Success is embracing and sharing your gifts and talents with the world
6) Success is living in the present.
7) Success is being joyfully focused on giving, rather than receiving.
8) Success is loving and being loved.
9) Success is being open and receptive to life.
What’s really interesting to me about my list is that there is not a single word about career or money to be found. Amazing what taking a few minutes to search your own heart and inner wisdom will do to re-arrange perception! So much of our perceived sense of “wrongness” comes from a false belief about what is “right,” a belief that usually comes from somewhere outside of us.
As I read my own definitions of success, I feel my heart light up. They feel true to my soul. This is the kind of success that actually matters, that is actually meaningful. These definitions, these guides, inspire and create a joyful, directed way to live each and every day, as opposed to some vague goal of getting or achieving more. True success is not about impressing, it is about expressing. It is not about getting, it is about giving. It is not about doing, it is about being.
If you are feeling out of joint with your own life, it might be helpful to examine your beliefs and perceptions about what a “successful” life really means. Remember the tale of the Ugly Duckling? The swan was only “ugly” when he measured himself by the yardstick of duck-ness. When he changed his measurement to be in alignment with who he really was, his life was transformed.
Success is built into us. It is already encoded in our DNA. The only “work” is to recognize (literally, ” to know again”) who we actually are and to remember (“to put back together”) what is truly meaningful. That’s success.
P.S. This is my 100th post! Thank you for joining me in my musings on living a more soulful life. If you find value in what you read, please share it with your friends. I am so grateful to be connected with you!