What is Success?
How do you define success? We all desire to be successful in our lives, but what does it mean to be successful?
I can truly say that this has been one of my greatest frustrations in life. Defining success is difficult for me. I strive to be the best I can and have come up short, in my mind, many times in my life. I found myself comparing my life to others and concluding that I was not satisfied.
I felt I didn’t have enough money, status, or recognition. I developed narrow views of what success should look like. For instance, I thought that I needed to earn at least six figures before I could be happy with my work. I reasoned that my body weight must be a certain amount before I could be happy with my physical appearance. I had to run a certain amount of miles each week before I could consider my week truly successful.
The worst part, I began to project my vision for success onto my family. My kids needed to achieve certain things at school and in their extracurricular activities for me to be satisfied. My wife, Alia, needed to meet certain criteria as well. I created all this in my mind and then distorted it to the point it became unhealthy and unsustainable.
I had to change and redefine what success meant, or I was headed towards destruction. So what did I do? I changed. Here’s what changed in my life and how I began to redefine success:
- Listen to God – This is by far the most difficult exercise for me. It’s hard for me to let go, but I know it’s necessary and that I must yield to the Lord. The first thing I do, every morning, is go to the Lord in prayer. I ask God to guide my thoughts and actions. I become silent and allow the Lord to speak to my spirit. I also pause several times a day to pray and ensure that God remains an active participant in my life. Over time I’ve become sensitive to the Lord’s presence and aware when a circumstance presents itself that I know is from God. When those circumstances occur, I don’t ignore them, I embrace them.
- Embrace the work – I used to rush through every task so I could move onto the next. I would quickly lace up my running shoes so I could “get my miles” and didn’t allow myself to enjoy the run. I did the work to reach an end, but realized that the work is never finished and there is never an end, so I pushed for a finish line that never appeared. I discovered the beauty in the work itself and the privilege it was to have the desire, the resources, and knowledge to do the work at hand. Instead of despising the work, because it stood in the way of reaching my goals, I learned to embrace the work and enjoy using my talents and skills to add value to the world.
- Love my family – I had to allow myself to simply love my family wherever they were on their journey, not where I thought they should be based on some set of conditions I created in my mind. I stopped judging and started hugging. I stopped talking and started listening. I became quick to forgive and slow to judge. I became a dad and stopped being a coach. I became a husband and less of a partner to my wife. I still struggle in this area at times, but I’ve made the fundamental shift in my mind to be more diligent and allow grace to flow through my family, where judgement used to dominate.
- Enjoy the journey – I’ve learned to stop and reflect more than I have in the past. I used to not allow myself to enjoy anything until the job was complete. That’s a miserable existence, because there will always be another job, another task, and a new obstacle to overcome. I had to train myself to stop and enjoy the moment. I used to be good with this in my younger years, but I lost it as I gained more responsibility, especially when I became a father. I had to retrain myself and force myself to slow down, take a deep breath and appreciate the moment for what it was, a moment that would soon pass and would never again exist. So now when my son, Ryan, knocks lightly on my office door, instead of sighing in frustration, I stop what I’m doing and ask him to come in and enjoy a few minutes with him and embrace the moment.
- Stop comparing – I’m a competitor. I compare where I am in relation to what others are achieving in their lives. I was frustrated when I perceived I was falling behind compared to a colleague or a friend. This became a dangerous and unhealthy cycle that I had to break if I truly wanted to experience success. I’ve learned that my life and my experiences are unique to me and that my measure of success has nothing to do with those around me, but everything to do with what God created me to be in my life. As long as I am aligned with God’s plans for me, then nothing else really matters, for when I’m aligned with God then the world’s view of success becomes less relevant.
My life is not perfect and I struggle to stay true to myself and honor God and my family, but I’m much more aware of what truly is important and what success should mean to me. So, how do you define success? Pause for a moment and take stock in your life and count your blessings. You will be surprised that you truly are a success right now. Don’t beat yourself up and allow grace into your life and enjoy the moment for what it is and move forward in your work with a new found joy and understanding that life is simply a journey that will someday come to an end, and when it does you can smile and know you did your best and enjoyed as much of it as you could along the way.