Think about yourself ten or twenty years ago. What was your definition of success? What did you think you had to do, be and have in order to call yourself successful?How close are you to that definition today? Have you achieved it? Did you come close? Did your priorities change and, therefore, your definition changed?
How do you define success today? What will you have to do, be and have in order to call yourself successful by the end of this year? In five years? In ten years?
Success on someone else’s terms
Our society tends to keep us groping for more. We’re supposed to want bigger houses, nicer cars, extravagant vacations and lots of fun toys. This is supposed to make us happy. It’s all about doing and having with no being in the equation.
You and I both know that this is total BS. Nothing outside of us will ever make us happy. (I’ve known many very rich, very unhappy people to prove this.)
And yet it keeps most people on the hamster wheel of life, running faster and faster, chasing the “happiness” carrot and never really getting any closer.
I don’t recall Christ, Buddha or any other deity telling their followers that buying and consuming more stuff is the path to enlightenment. The message I’ve heard over and over is the exact opposite.
Society’s messages convince us that success is somewhere “out there” and we’re supposed to be running the race to get “there” (wherever “there” is).
It’s never enough
Even when we achieve our goals and old definitions of success, we decide that they’re not good enough. We need more, bigger and better. We rarely celebrate our achievements. Instead we beat ourselves up because it wasn’t good enough.
Out of college, my definitions of success were exactly what everyone thought they were supposed to be: quickly climbing the ladder at a great job, happily married, living in a nice suburban neighborhood in a beautiful, well-decorated house with two beautiful kids running around who did well in school, eventually went to college and repeated your life all over again.
Fortunately I came to my senses and realized how horribly wrong this was for me. I got as far as the job and marriage and felt that something about the whole picture was wrong. Even though I subscribed to countless home building and decorating magazines which I read cover to cover, I couldn’t bring myself to actually buy a house. It simply felt wrong at the time.
At that point I realized that the old programming was all wrong for me but I didn’t know what “right” looked like.
Many people spend their lives knowing that their situation is wrong for them but society, friends and family tell them it’s right because it’s pretty, safe and secure and it’s what you’re supposed to be happy with. And so they stay, questioning themselves. Wondering why they’re not happy. And never doing anything about it.
That wasn’t going to be me. I had too much at stake: My happiness for the rest of my life.
So I left the great job and the great husband and ventured out on my own. I had the most amazing experiences, most of them completely out of my comfort zone. I met amazing people from whom I learned amazing things.
And from years of experiences, I’ve pieced together my own picture of success, my own “right.”
At different points along my journey, I’ve taken the time to write down what my perfect day would look like in as much detail as I could imagine. I would read it a few times for days after I wrote it. And over time I kept the vision in my mind.
And life would life along, as it does.
And then a funny thing would happen.
I would pull out that piece of paper and read it again a few years later, after I had pretty much forgotten about it.
And I wept as I realized that I was living that life. My picture of happiness and success was my actual life and I hadn’t even realized it.
Living your own definition of success
Today I look around on a daily basis and say, “How cool is this! I have the most amazing life! This is what I wanted so badly for so long! And it’s here, right now.” And I smile a very big smile and say a very big “Thank You!” to the Universe.
And I know it can only get better from here.
I’ve learned that success is more of a path than a destination. It’s less about the doing and having and much more about the being.
My biggest success is the person I’ve become along the way, not anything I do or have. And, ironically, I wouldn’t have or do the things I have and do if it weren’t for the person I’ve become.
And I’m constantly growing and changing and evolving as I continue along my path.
I have lots of plans for ways to impact the lives of many thousands of people and I’m working on those plans as fast as I can, making sure that I enjoy the ride.
Sometimes my kids ask me how old I’ll be when I die. My answer is always 104. When they ask why, I respond, “The longer I live, the more people I can impact.”
What’s your definition of success? Are you living it? What would it take for you to realize your dreams? Take that first baby step today. Or else…..