A common belief is that success will increase your sense of confidence, security, freedom and happiness. Having a big bank account is often considered synonymous with success and key to reaping its rewards. But with life’s uncertainties and the prevalence of reversal of fortune due to catastrophic illness, disaster and loss, it sometimes feels like there’s never going to be enough money. Even among those who have great financial wealth based on inherited fortunes or lucrative careers, there are many examples of chronic low self-esteem, insecurity and unhappiness.
What’s your definition of success?
My own life is a cautionary tale that the relentless pursuit and achievement of the traditional measures of success via the typical path of working non-stop is no guarantee of lasting health, peace or happiness. How was it that I became so burned out—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—being paid well to travel the world doing challenging work with interesting people?
Why did my ever escalating titles
and income not bring the self-esteem,
satisfaction and joy I’d expected?
Clearly, achieving the traditional definition of success was bringing me the trappings of success—money, stuff and titles—but it wasn’t yielding the feelings I’d believed would automatically flow from them—equanimity, strength, resilience and joy. And there’s the rub, because, whenever we desire something—a better car, body, job or relationship—what we are really seeking is the feeling we think we’ll have once the target is ours.
It’s not the “thing” that we seek;
we seek the feeling we believe
having it will provide.
So let’s get back to the original question. How do you define success? Not sure but curious? Consider trying this activity. DON’T FORCE THIS—KEEP IT FUN. When you’re tired or lose interest, stop. Return to the activity when you have fresh energy for it.
Label the top of the page in this manner:
Tangible Results ⇒ Feelings ⇐ Other Sources
Now, brainstorm (no judging or filtering) all the tangible measures and results of your desired success, being as specific as possible. For example, don’t just write money, write each of the things you believe that money will finance such as college educations at the best schools for your three children, a large estate for your heirs, an advanced degree for yourself, a new car every few years, invigorating vacations in interesting destinations, substantive charitable donations, etc.
When you start to lose energy for this column, shift to the feelings column. For each tangibles entry, enter the desired feeling you believe you’ll feel more of once you have that tangible. The entries in this column will probably repeat. Common entries might include happiness, security, peace of mind, self-esteem, freedom. Again, no self-judgement, just note everything that comes up. When your energy for the feelings column starts waning, stop. Study your list and identify the distinct feelings you identified. Now in the “other sources” column, brainstorm the things (activities, relationships, objects, etc.) that also produce these feelings for you.
Choose Your Energy:
Change Your Life!
Now ponder the insights revealed by your results. Look at the many ways you can foster your desired feelings and identify the optimal mix for you. Let’s use the example of exhilaration as a desired feeling. If you experience exhilaration from going for a run, watching your daughter play soccer, receiving a financial windfall and getting a promotion at work, consider the benefits and drawbacks of making all of your exhilaration energy investments in a single asset. Might a more balanced life portfolio based on spreading your energy across a variety of sources yield a more sustainable and satisfying return on your investment?
It’s up to you—you are
the “great decider” for your own life.
With mindfulness and intention, you’ll begin to appreciate that success isn’t really about money or things—success is about how you feel. Success comes in all shapes, sizes, forms and combinations. As unique as each snowflake. Care enough about yourself to determine the unique life design that will support you in living the life you desire.
What commitment will you make to yourself today to begin making your life feel more successful on your terms? You’re worth the investment!
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