I want you take a minute right now and think about what success means to you. What would it look like if you were successful in business and in life? What would your day look like? Where would you live? Who would you spend time with and what would you do?
Now put a pin in those answers and lets talk about our ideas of success.
A Clear Image of Success
For a long time I had a very clear image of success. It’s the one you often see in the movies of an active professional who is efficient, decisive, and in demand. I imagined myself rushing around big office buildings, giving huge speeches, and shaking hands with big wigs. And for a long time this image both enthralled and terrified me.
On the one hand, I saw success as a huge opportunity to help others, to make an impact on thousands of lives, and to enjoy the benefits of influence and financial security.
But the idea of success also scared me because I feared it would cause me to lose touch with what really mattered to me.
Then one day I realized that I’d been making a mistake. I realized that the problem wasn’t in trying to achieve some level of success and satisfaction. But in how I’d formed my image of success.
The Image of Success
You see my image of success was based on a very narrow perspective of how successful people live. I simply didn’t understand that there was a way for me to support my family and myself without making my life look like this image I had created.
Then as I began to work with clients, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one. Many of my clients had an idealized version of success that demanded they change not only a few bad habits, but almost everything about themselves. They imagined themselves working harder, never getting distracted, and never wasting time on things that were frivolous.
I began to realize that while they thought these images of success would help them become what they hoped for. In reality, these images were holding them back.
Freeing Yourself From Success
Now I want to go back to the image of success that I asked you to paint at the beginning of this post and ask you a few questions.
In this idealized image of success:
1. Is the person you imagined as your successful self just like you or totally different?
2. How busy are they? Do they have any free time?
3. Are they allowed to make mistakes or be human?
4. Do they have to struggle at all or is everything easy?
Answering these questions can reveal that your image of success is unrealistic. Now this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to be a better person or change your life. But it does mean that the success you reach for needs to be your success and not that of some super human doppelganger.
Here a few simple tips that help you tweak or redefine your image of success in a way that will actually motivate you and help you be deeply happy.
When you recreate your definition of success, make sure to add your personality. If you are a laid back person who likes to sit on the porch and read, include this in your new image of success. Just because some people like to jet around the world doesn’t mean you have to.
Let Go of Ego:
Your ego may want you to have a hundred sexy men/women vying for your attention. But usually our ego is pretty bad at long term satisfaction. Let go of those things in your image of success that are based purely on making you feel superior in exchange for things that make you feel deeply satisfied.
When we create images of success we tend to focus on possessions and power, but forget about connection. Having deep and meaningful connections are some of the most valuable and rewarding things in life. So as you redefine success be sure include the connections you want to have with friends, family, and other loved ones.
Let Go of Fame:
While fame can seem very glamorous from the outside it isn’t often as grand as you may imagine it to be. Instead of focusing on how famous you will be focus on how you will impact your community. Sure it would be amazing to have your own TV show, but it can be just as amazing to be a valued expert in your field even if it’s a small one.
Often when we think about success we start to create lists of things we want to do with our minds. In addition, while these lists can help us know where we want to invest our time, they can become an endless source of stress and obligation.
So as you redefine success, I’d encourage you to lead not with your list making mind but your open heart. Look for things about success that call to your heart in a deep way.
Let Go of Goals:
While goals can be valuable, many of the successful people I know succeeded in ways that couldn’t have imagined at first. While goals can motivate you, it’s important not to become attached to them.
Becoming attached to goals can lead to you being closed off to other possibilities and overly invested in things that aren’t yielding results. Instead of using goals, I try to state my intentions for every project I undertake. I use these intentions as a guide to help me stay connected to my values no matter where my fortunes are heading.
And when you do have goals, try your best to focus on the benefits you get from striving for them as opposed to the need to complete them no matter what.
Final Thoughts on Success
While the desire to be successful is something most of us feel, it can quickly become a big thing holding us back from our true potential. One way to think of suffering is that it’s caused when the picture in our minds fails to match what we find in the world. And this is why having a very small fixed idea of success can lead to so many problems.
So I invite you to expand your understanding of what being successful might mean. Don’t just take your cues from the world around you instead look deep within yourself and learn from the wisdom that is close to your heart.