"success” is a touchy word. people fight for it, pursue it, dream about it, feel like a ‘failure’ for not having it… and yet most of us would give different answers to the question:
“what is ‘success’ to you?”
i know, because i ask all my clients that and they all say something different. what would be your default response?
I graduated from university at the top of my class and was told by professors and employers alike that I had “the potential to go far and be successful”. I stressed myself out a lot in school and in my first consulting job, trying to ‘be a success’. At the time, to me, that meant getting all A’s or landing a big contract. My physical health and emotional wellbeing suffered. Feeling a need for a different definition of success, I left that career track to pursue a new direction. That led to an unexpected season of answering phone calls and doing data entry in an office, where I mostly felt like I was “wasting my time” - I wasn’t adding anything impressive to my resume, I wasn’t crossing anything off my bucket list, and I didn’t particularly enjoy the work.
One day while out for a walk, I had an ‘aha’ moment: “what if my life wasn’t about all the things I accomplished, but was as much about who I was becoming?”
My whole world turned upside down. It seemed obvious and overly simple but all of a sudden everything I did took on new meaning. Every moment became an opportunity to learn and grow and to be refined into my True Self. That season no longer felt like a “waste of time,” but instead became an opportunity to grow in humility and patience, to learn more about what brings me life, and to contribute to something I believed in.
It is amazing how we find ourselves believing that success is supposed to look a certain way on us, and that we surely haven’t accomplished it. We find ourselves saying: “I am not where I thought I would be….” We so easily see our “have-nots” before seeing the goodness in our lives.
When life is about who we are becoming there is no such thing as failure, only opportunity for more growth. This version of success is defined by the elements we can control rather than external circumstances or other people’s opinions. When we hold a vision for the “becoming”, our actions are motivated from an authentic place rather than by a superimposed set of beliefs about what we “should” do.
I have this incredible job where I get to see success in others and celebrate it with them every day. There are people living successful lives as single mothers, as investment bankers, as school teachers, as stay-at-home dads, as lawyers, as artists…Let’s not set expectations for our lives based on someone else’s storyline.
What if success isn't about labels, but is instead about knowing ourselves and honouring our values, pursuing our passions, living with gratitude, growing in our gifts and potential, learning from mistakes, extending forgiveness, and living consciously and authentically? What if success is ultimately being free from the “should”?
Please, I invite you, celebrate the moments of success in your life (even if they just feel like moments) - I guarantee you there are more of them than you usually give yourself credit for. Brag about the little things - that time you stayed calm during the fourth wake up of the night, that time you said “no”, that time you did your very best… Success is as much a way of being as it is about doing...the more you see and celebrate where it is showing up, there more of it there will be... and the better the world will be for it.