How do you define success?
Today on Lewis Howes' School of Greatness podcast, I was inspired by his guest, graffiti artist Eric Wahl to really examine my idea of success. Eric Wahl said that after financial ruin at age 30 he decided to redefine success by things like having a nice dinner with his family. That made me think, how do I define success?
Without really examining it, I define success like I think most people do. Success is appreciation and financial reward for my hard work. And sometime in the future, when I have achieved a certain financial sweet spot... I will be successful. Then what? What does that really mean? What will I do when I reach that magical state of success? Well, for me when I dig down deeper and really think about it, it means I get to exhale and relax. You have earned it, you have nothing to prove - relax.
This may come as a surprise but I don't think I have relaxed since I left college. On the outside it might have looked that way but believe me on the inside I was making a list of what I should have been doing instead or what I would do when I finished "relaxing." My wistful college memories are not of crazy animal-house style frat parties but of long, languid afternoons laying around watching soap operas. (How many men Erica Kane, How many men?)
Success is a tricky thing - its tightly tied to our self worth. I think that was really at the heart of all the volunteering I did in my 30's. If I do X and it is successful it will make me feel good about myself. That raises my self worth and then guess what? I get to take a break because I deserve it. I can be easy on myself - Thank God, because I am really exhausted!
Unfortunately the formula of overachievement = self worth = success does not bring what you desire anymore than equating success to some undefined future goal you cling to. I am not saying success is bad or unworthy. I am not saying that volunteering is bad or having goals is wrong. What I am getting at is the WHY and the WHAT of your success.
When you know what the real WHAT is behind your goal or success then you can align with the WHY. Then all of a sudden you are where you really want to be and doing something you want to do on purpose. Your action is aligned with the right energy.
When I clear away all the outward shiny pennies of success like a nice house, nice clothes, fabulous vacations, etc. what it really represents at the core is the feeling of security in which I can let my guard down and just relax. I can enjoy the moment with out pressuring myself to do something I'm not really inspired to do. The irony of the situation is that I do not have to achieve success or do anything or be anything other than in the present moment to feel relaxed! My real end goal is already here, I just have to let myself check into it. I have been spending all these years slogging from point A to B but really there is only one point and I am already there, I just need to realize it. There is no worthiness to prove, no amount of money or volunteering will make me more deserving. There is only one thing to do, grant my self permission to do what I want instead of making the story about some pie-in-the-sky hard journey to success.
I will now say no big deal, time to relax a bit. "Yes kids, I can watch a movie with you." "Sure Doug, let's enjoy a drink on the patio."
When you give yourself permission to live the WANT or the success how does that change the WHY? Because, then you are doing whatever you are doing from a place of purpose and love. Instead of being tired and "having" to push to make dinner or push to drive to gymnastics, you're energized to make dinner because it will taste good. You clean the house because it feels good to be organized. You drive to gymnastics excited about reading your book there. The work you do and the volunteering you do come out of love for either the cause or what your paycheck helps you enjoy in your life. See the difference? It feels better and paradoxically gets better results.
What is your definition of success? Push beyond the boat or the Benz and and ask what success really looks like for you. Is it out there in the distant future or is it something you could start to bring into your life, at least a little bit, right now?
Maybe you have this all figured out already and are pursuing your bliss. I hope you do. For me, I am just gonna go try and relax a little.
Thanks for reading! If you have time, listen to the podcast link above.
See you next week.