An old friend from high school reached out to me yesterday afternoon in anguish. She and her husband of eighteen years split up fairly recently; the end of the relationship came as a shock to her, and she’s felt like she’s been in a tailspin for the past two months. “If I see one more Facebook Spouse Challenge photo, I think I’ll vomit!” she said, through tears. We spoke for a while, and eventually her tears dried. By the end of the conversation, she was present to what matters most: she has a wonderful son from her marriage, and that made the whole marriage worthwhile, no matter how it ended. She realized that she’d been defining the marriage on the split, rather than on the good it had brought with it. When she looked at it that way, she realized that her marriage had, in fact, been a success. “That realization blows my mind,” she said, before saying goodbye and hanging up the phone.
Have you ever reflected on your life and felt that your “success quotient” doesn’t quite add up as you’d hoped? Have you ever thought that you should feel great because of all you’ve accomplished and all of the hard work you’ve put in, but instead you felt a twinge of dissatisfaction?
Maybe you finally accomplished your big dream or a landmark goal only to feel suddenly empty, or to realize that it wasn’t even your dream or goal in the first place?
Have you ever had the feeling, “Is this all there is?”
If so, you’re not alone.
Sometimes we have those experiences because of the way we’ve defined success. Many ideas we have about success are often not our own; we are influenced by any number of external factors, and that phenomenon happens early and subconsciously.
Where did your current definition of success come from?
Do you compare your home or lifestyle to the people on HGTV, and feel that you come up short? Do you measure your self worth by your current number of Twitter followers? Do you ever experience being invalidated when someone you know moves up the corporate ladder as if they have wings, or they seem as if they’re actually able to “have it all,” while you struggle with just getting dinner on the table at night?
If that’s the case, then the answer isn’t necessarily to strive harder and burn yourself out more, but rather, the answer lies in redefining what success means to you.
I’ve personally been grappling with this issue myself quite a bit lately. A decade and a half ago I compared myself to people I admired, and I decided that I needed to dedicate all of my energy to working unceasingly in order to build a business. Now that I have finally slowed down a little to enjoy the fruits of my labor, I’m realizing that I missed something along the way: I built only a business but not a family. Recently I began observing the happiness that many of my friends have by being parents, and I started to feel like I’d missed out. Then it hit me: I was doing exactly the same thing I did all those years ago; I was comparing myself to others to see where I stacked up and what decisions I should make moving forward. The truth is I have designed a life I love – with or without children – but I don’t get to experience my love for that life as long as I am comparing myself to anyone else.
There’s a reason why the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” has been such a popular quote for over a hundred years … it’s as true today as the day it was written.
Are you successful? Who gets to say? Better yet, what the heck is success, anyway? In this video are three tips to help you finally decide what it is that you want, so you can finally experience yourself as successful.
We only have right now, this very minute, this exquisite moment, and nothing else. If you’re hinging your happiness on a life that hasn’t happened yet, or comparing yourself to other people, you will never, ever be happy, or experience your success, no matter how much of it you have.