“Let me dive into the water. Leave behind all that I’ve worked for. Except what I remember and believe. And when I stand on the farthest shore I will have all I need.” – David Wilcox
When you envision your success what do you include?
If you are like most people you include things like how much money you will make or have, your dream home, perhaps that amazing car, or the things you want to be able to provide for your family.
For those who are philanthropically minded you may include how much you will give or something you will contribute to make a difference in the world.
If you are career minded you may include that big promotion, your ideal job, your dream business or perhaps attaining a PhD. I have included many of these things on my list. Some of them are still on that list.
All of those things are valid ways to define success. Except perhaps something is missing.
I don’t know if it’s that I am in my forties and I am experiencing some sort of mid-life awakening. Or perhaps it is because I have heard countless stories of people losing so much of what they have worked for their whole life in such a seemingly short period of time. Maybe it is because I have coached so many people recently who are questioning whether their definition of success was really theirs to begin with.
Whatever the reason I have been in an inquiry about defining success for myself and with my clients.
I listened to the song whose lyrics I quoted above and was reminded of an encounter with a friend over 15 years ago. My friend came to visit me for the weekend. We had not seen each other for a few years. When he got to my house he shared that everything he owned was in his car at that moment. I was really surprised because since college he seemed to be on quite a fast track to success. Turns out he invested everything in his brother’s business and lost it all.
Yet the the most interesting thing he shared was that he had never felt so free. He was clear that he would build back what he had lost and then some. He certainly wasn’t heading to a remote island somewhere to drown his sorrows. In fact he was more motivated than ever to succeed.
But he said that he learned something invaluable. He now knew what he wanted success to feel like – the kind of internal life he wanted to experience each and every day. He believed that one aha would have a more profound impact on the rest of his life than anything else he learned.
It certainly impacted me. For me it brought to the forefront three things that were not previously on my list – my desire for freedom and choice, the opportunity to express my creativity and to make a difference in the lives of others. Those are my experiential guideposts for success. And they have guided me in every decision I have made since, especially the one to venture out on my own despite how scary it seemed at the time. I am so grateful to be living the life that I do now including doing the work that I do even when things are hard because I get to experience those three things just about every day.
Success is an inner game. Consider that it is not a place to get to or a thing to acquire, but rather an experience of being satisfied with the life you have. It does not live in the things like the house,the car, the position, or the degree. It does not come from the assessments of others like a performance appraisal or the self assessments we make when we compare ourselves to others. It lives in our experience each and every day.
Perhaps if we begin to look to our experience as a dimension to our success we can discover a much clearer pathway to making the day to day choices that put us on the path living the life of our dreams.
So how do you define success?
What does success look like to you? What does it feel like?
Maybe you don’t have to wait. Perhaps you can even start feeling success right now.