For being so cold and bleak, February is a pretty darned happy month. There’s the lunar new year — with its joyful celebration of new beginnings and opportunities for success — and Valentine’s Day, stirring thoughts of the heart (it also stirs groundhogs, but I’d like to focus on the heart—if you love groundhogs, then it all works). It all has me thinking about the heart of success.
Most of us define success in terms of money, title, and celebrity; the media certainly pounds that definition home. While it’s true that money is the currency of our culture, success that’s defined solely by fame and fortune is clearly not all it’s cracked up to be. You can’t go to the grocery store without seeing a magazine cover announcing the latest celebrity that’s divorcing, in rehab, or has gone over the edge. Money is to success what potato chips are to food: it tastes really good, but it leaves you feeling vaguely unsatisfied and wishing you’d gone for the turkey sandwich. Clearly, success has to be rooted in something more.
Givin’ It Up for Something More
My brother was a successful, big-city attorney for two decades. He had the corner office with the killer view, the car, the suits … and he was deeply unhappy. He had the money and the trappings (interesting word) but his work lacked connection to his heart and gave him no joy. Instead, it gave him constant stress and anxiety. After 20 years of “success,” he wound up in the E.R. with heart palpitations. He was at a cross-roads.
It wasn’t easy to let go of the status and money, but in the middle of his life, my brother listened to his heart and embraced his heart’s passionand purpose. He became a master arborist, aesthetic pruner (the kind that shapes those fancy-pants maple trees in Japanese gardens), and college instructor. His work brings him peace and joy every single day. It brings him alive. (And he makes $800 a tree. Who knew!?)
That something more lies in the heart. True success is defined by who you are, not what you have. It’s not based on bank accounts or Instagram followers, but on values essential to the human spirit: joy, peace, purpose, meaning, and connection. The heart of success is connecting with your passion and sharing that aliveness with the world. You know you’re a success when you tap into a deep and meaningful feeling of joy and purpose.
You Gotta Have Heart
The only true success is being brave enough to follow your heart. It takes courage to buck the system and challenge conventional wisdom. But know this: when you connect with your purpose and passion, you are destined for success. The kind that imbues your life with vibrancy and meaning, makes the world a better place and satisfies the deeper hunger.
My advice for 2019? Go for the turkey sandwich. You won’t regret it.
KATE INGRAM is a coach, counselor and award-winning author who helps people connect with their passion and purpose. Discover more at katherineingram.com.