We’ve been taught to view success by outer measures – degrees, income, assets, job title, number of readers, followers, subscribers, likes, friends, our kids, GPA, college acceptance, number of years married, weight, awards and accolades.
I’m certainly not immune to these measures. I care about many of them.
And I’ve expanded my definition considerably through what I’ve learned as a wife, a parent, an artist, and an entrepreneur.
I’ve come to view success as an ability to use everything unfolding in my life as an opportunity to grow & evolve, be more awake and aware. And to simply remember that underneath any crap-storm of emotion and perceived f**k-up I am a spiritual being having a human experience, and I need to give myself some grace.
With that in mind, here are 23 Alternative Perspectives on Success For Your Consideration…
Success = getting OK with the idea that if I try more, and do more, I will fail more — Less Successful = not wanting to try things I’m not sure I can do well
Success = willingness to get out on the edge and stretch, take a risk, leave the comfort zone behind, make a mess of it — Less Successful = fear, paralysis, staying stuck, refusing to push myself (even a gentle nudge)
Success = getting OK with the worst case scenario and taking action anyway — Less Successful = continual focus on what I might lose or give up if things don’t work out, with the result that I never follow my dream
Success = accepting “what is” — Less Successful = demanding a different experience, i.e. “this shouldn’t be happening to me”
Success = telling my story as the hero’s journey with all its trials and triumphs — Less Successful = telling my story in a disempowered way – “I’m upset because…” or “I’m the victim of…”
Success = getting an idea, being curious, taking action to see what happens — Less Successful = continual fence sitting because I’m waiting for absolute clarity and guaranteed results before taking action
Success = being open to what the process teaches me; letting the process change me; learning to do something more joyfully and effectively and creatively — Less Successful = singular focus on, and attachment to, one and only one outcome
Success = setting intentions and taking action in alignment with my values — Less Successful = acting outside my value system
Success = taking a stand for something, even if it is controversial — Less Successful = not wanting to disagree with conventional wisdom or upset anyone
Success = the desire to give and serve — Less Successful = desperation around what I want to get
Success = discernment and clarity around what is a “yes” and what is a “no” — Less Successful = always saying “yes” or always saying “no”
Success = focus on how I want to be, qualities I want to embody as I show up — Less Successful = entire focus on what I do, with no consciousness of the energy I bring to doing it
Success = discipline to do the work even on days when I’m not in the mood — Less Successful = only showing up for my dream when I’m super inspired and motivated
Success = loving the questions life is bringing forward, an attitude of curiosity — Less Successful = anger and frustration that I don’t know the answer right this minute
Success = trusting myself to move forward with what I know right now — Less Successful = self doubt and always waiting to know more before taking action
Success = being open to the surprising, unexpected ways dreams and goals can manifest — Less Successful = talking myself out of the dream when I can’t see a clear, linear, logical path; not trusting Higher Intelligence
Success = moving forward with the tools and help I have right now — Less Successful = waiting for the perfect circumstances before taking action
Success = exploring the journey one step at a time — Less Successful = waiting to know my ultimate destination, and what each step looks like, before I even start
Success = asking a question that brings forward creative thinking– “How can I…” — Less Successful = Continually asking questions that result in self-limiting thinking – “Why can’t I…” or “Why don’t I ever…”.
Success = clarity on my area of stewardship, my life mission; maintaining focus on what I can change — Less Successful = compassion fatigue, despair, overwhelm to the point of doing nothing
Success = willingness to get there in my unique way, in my own time — Less Successful = compare and despair, other people’s lives are better; other people are smarter, richer, more talented, more successful, more celebrated, etc. so I either won’t bother or else I’ll attempt to imitate someone
Success = loving myself no matter what — Less Successful = believing my worst thoughts about myself; hating myself when I don’t succeed in the traditional measures of success
Success = being grateful for every step on my journey, and what it is teaching me — Less Successful = being bitter at the hand that life has dealt me
This is my definition today; it might well change tomorrow as my life experience helps me evolve. I’d love to get beyond a black-and-white view of life that labels things as success or failure. For now, it has been so engrained in my thinking that I have to trick my brain with how I define success or I’m too paralyzed to move forward with anything outside my current comfort zone. Part of redefining success is putting it on a spectrum of success vs. less successful (or room for improvement) rather than defining it in terms of black-and-white success vs. failure.
I encourage you to tell your story and define your life in your own terms. My first marriage ended in divorce (and not a happy, let’s be friends and keep in touch, version). I don’t call my divorce a failure – I call it “practice”. Defining success and failure in my own terms allowed me to quit telling a bitter story of regret and failure, and to quit blaming, and judging my choices and experiences as wrong. Instead I was able to turn my focus to what I learned and how I wanted to grow. Embracing the lessons in that experience allowed me to be open and vulnerable again, to be a better partner and build a new kind of relationship. Now I’ve been happily married over 20 years. I accept that my first marriage was exactly the experience I needed. Deep pain uncovers the opportunity for a wealth of growth and evolution.
Choose the definition of success that works for you. Choose a definition that supports your growth and evolution. Avoid the trap of letting others define your success or failure. Have faith and trust in yourself and your journey.