To say that this book writing process has challenged and expanded me would be understatement. Thrown me in a rapid stream of consciousness full of hidden obstructions and undercurrents without so much as a pool noodle is more like it.
Slow-going as the journey has been, it’s not been for lack of effort. I’m invested and determined as ever — it’s just that I’m ALSO allowing space for the fullness of life and (plentiful) lessons being offered.
One of these lessons strikes me as valuable and important enough to break from my blogging break and explore (truth is, I’ve been looking for an excuse anyway). It started with this thought:
Success is a hugely confused concept within our culture.
And here’s where that’s taken me:
From the time we are young, we’re taught that success is the reward of earnest effort, lucky breaks, practice practice practice and the ability to outwork those around us. We’re encouraged to reach for success somewhere in the future; to set goals and anticipate greatness.
And while I recognize these attributes to be a part of what it means to “be successful,” it seems we’re missing something kind of huge with this purely achievement-based definition. Success also includes present-minded awareness; an attentiveness to and acceptance of the goodness we’re currently living.
Looking back on our experiences, success often looks nothing like we thought it would. We expect fireworks!, grand rewards and a deep sense of completion. We’re disappointed when we don’t “get there,” and almost immediately seek the next challenge once our end goal is met.
I’m beginning to think that our job as heart-led humans is not to seek success, but to examine the stories we’ve been told about it (and about ourselves in relation to it) and tune in to the ways we’re already accomplished.
By defining success for ourselves, we connect with its potential as an ever-present gift. Until then, it remains an elusive treasure; a thing we hope for but never fully enjoy.
For me, redefining success has everything to do with deciphering my ego from my truer self.
My ego would have me believe I am “behind” on this book. It encourages choices based on what people might think, a longing to be published already!! and an insatiable lust for the feeling of completion. When I’m able to quiet that voice and listen instead with my heart — my truer self — I recognize that I am actually not behind at all, but that these past few months have been deliciously fruitful and I, quite successful.
Anytime we allow someone else to define our success for us (including our own egos) we are also allowing them to define our worth.
When, on the other hand, we lead with our hearts, checking our actions with our inner wisdom, we can begin to see success as inherent to being human and available to us all at the shift of a perspective.
Consider the seasons of your life when you’ve not been particularly successful by conventional measure:
While home with your babies,
While healing physical or emotional wounds,
While uncertain and searching for answers,
While braving a major transition,
While laying foundation for the growth of a dream,
While putting one foot in front of the other when doing so was almost more than you had in you.
None of these seasons equates to “successful” by societal standards. We invest in them anyway because deep down, we KNOW them to be worthy, which means that they are as much a part of our success story as the end reward we think we’re waiting for.
Frustration, self-doubt and a sense of failure are often the byproducts of subscribing to someone else’s definitions. Doing so leaves us feeling disempowered because our truest SELF is not being honored.
By MY definition:
I am successful every time I tune in to abundance.
I am successful every time I make a connection, whether with one of my daughters, my muse or the taco guy down the street.
I am successful every time I choose compassion over efficiency, truth over assumptions and curiosity over judgement.
I am successful when I live at a speed dictated by the stillness of my heart and not the busyness of my mind.
I am successful when I continue in the direction of my dreams, even when they make no sense to anyone but me.
In this light, feeling successful does not require accomplishment so much as acknowledgment. It often means DOING LESS in order that I might be more perceptive to the success I’m already living.
Your version of success is for YOU to define.
A beautiful bonus of this shift in thinking is that celebrating our present-moment successes doesn’t just enhance our present moment, it also cues The Greater Good to send more of the same.
“As soon as you start to feel differently about what you already have, you will start to attract more of the good things, more of the things you can be grateful for.” — Joe Vitale
“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” — Gandhi
“Making a dream into reality begins with what you have, not with what you are waiting on.” ― T.F. Hodge
And so, in the spirit of gratitude, celebration and clearing space for what’s to come, here are a few recent successes I proudly recognize:
1. The strengths and capabilities of my daughters are becoming obvious, and years of investment are paying off in wonderful ways…
2. Three of my favorite friends ever recently came to visit (one at a time). I’m still glowing from the fullness of connection…
3. Hunter and I continue to examine our relationship and move through the difficult parts, instead of skirting around them…
4. I’m learning what it is to love deeply, give plentifully and respond with compassion while both holding boundaries AND remaining flexible (talk about success without completion!)…
5. I’m balancing the needs of many ages and still managing to increase my sense of self…
6. I decided not to work during their two-week spring break and instead bus it to San Cristobal (best decision ever)…
7. I slow down for every wonder I can — like this fungus I found growing in the gravel of our yard. It popped up over night, smelled of death, seduced dozens of flies, then died within 24 hours…
8. I’m spending as much time as I can with dear friends whom I’ll soon be missing very much…
9. I stopped blaming my heart palpitations, fatigue, sleeplessness and brain fog on parasites and hauled my skinner-than-usual self back to a doctor. Turns out, I have hyperthyroidism, which I’m now taking meds for until I get moved and have more access to holistic treatments. (Wow, what a trip THIS has been. Would love to hear from those of you with experience)…
10. But perhaps my greatest present-moment success is learning to make peace with the going and coming and going again of my firstborn. They leave holes in you, did you know that? Deep friendship, self-love and trust in that Greater Good are my soul salves of choice…
Though the lesson is simple, its implications are pretty profound:
We feel successful based not on what we accomplish, but whether our hearts are fully engaged along the journey.
None of this is to say that I don’t look forward to the sense of accomplishment I will feel when I finally finish this book (because I most certainly do), just that there’s no less to be proud of or celebrated right now.
Love and gratitude,
“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” – David Frost