When you hear the word ‘success,’ what comes to mind? Do images of wealth, accumulation of objects, travel, prestige, a large home and hoards of people singing your praises float on through?
For many, that is the ‘gold standard’. We are often taught to look to the external as the measure of accomplishment. For much of my life, the yardstick was affirmation in the form of good grades, praise from family, friends, employers and teachers, winning swimming competitions and overcoming physical challenges related to asthma and issues with my feet. I felt like I was on a ceaselessly spinning hamster wheel with no clue at the time how to stop it. It never occurred to me that I could simply jump off and that the world itself wouldn’t stop turning on its axis. It took even more serious health crises to propel me from it. It was either that or literally die trying. I chose life, but at a far slower pace than ever before.
Each day, I continue to be mindful about what it means to feel successful. I used to measure it by outcome. Now I see it as a willingness to put my heart and soul into all I do, regardless of the final result, since I ultimately have no control over that. I just give it my best and then (here’s the tough part) relinquish it. Paradoxically (or maybe not), I have seen even more beautiful manifestations as a result. Creative endeavors, career opportunities, new friends and business connections, gifts from generous people and miraculous occurrences have all shown up. Truth be told, it does take reminders from others to keep me on track.
I watched a video this morning that was created by Strayer University about a social experiment. In it, people were asked to rate their perception of their own success on a 1-10 scale. Then, a person in their life was asked to rate their view of their loved one’s success. The outcome was no surprise to me, although it seemed so to them.
Take a moment to do this yourself. If you rate yourself lower on the scale than others do, ask yourself how you measure your own success. Is it a realistic view? Do you set the bar too high? Not high enough and then beat up on yourself for feeling like a slacker? Do you (like I do) have an inner perfectionist who expects that you hit a home run each time at bat?
These days, my measure of success is on a different scale. I ask myself how healthy and loving my relationships are. I question if I am taking care of my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. I inquire if I am following through on my commitments to myself and others; in integrity as a woman of my word. I query if I am using my creative gifts in service to the world as I abundantly support myself as well.
How do you define success?