Is your definition of success generating failure?
Success is a deceptive word.
On one hand, there is the exhilaration of working at something – especially something that is extremely hard – and achieving success as the final outcome.
On the other hand, there is the moment that comes afterward. One month later. One year later.
You see, the exhilaration of success fades over time.
Last week’s personal high loses its glow.
Last year’s career achievement becomes a story we mention in passing.
And so forth…
Yet we still pursue success, don’t we? We still look for that next mountain to climb, that next milestone to achieve, that next outcome to deliver. One more achievement to come after the last one. Success upon success, over and over and over again. Which creates the kind of stress that we actually don’t want.
At least that is how it goes for those of us addicted to success.
Which begs the question… why?
Why do success addicts climb the difficult mountains? Why do success addicts push so hard? Is it simply for the rush, the moment of peak emotion that we know will come once we succeed? Are we simply looking for a new experience to feel good?
I’d like to offer 2 thoughts that I’ve been pondering.
The first thought is this: the success addict is not pursuing success. Rather, we are trying to please our past.
In other words, we have convinced ourselves that every success is somehow a salve for whatever sense of loss or failure that we experienced in the past, often buried deeply within our mind. That somehow the success of tomorrow will satisfy yesterday’s gap. The bigger the loss/failure, the bigger the success that is needed to feel “good.” And it gets more complicated when no single success can be big enough to heal the past.
Here’s the main problem with that approach: the past no longer exists. Shucks, the person that we once were no longer exists. We are constantly changing, evolving, and (hopefully) growing. Why should we expect the future to somehow fulfill the past? It is an illogical belief – but one that success addicts grip tightly like a syringe full of hope.
If this is describing you, let me offer the advice that I am learning/applying to the narrative inside my own head. Make peace with yourself. Make peace with your past. Whatever pain or loss that you have experienced, accept it as part of the journey and accept that you have the power to give it purpose. Make it part of a grander lesson. Part of a better story. A story that has tremendous meaning and depth.
If you (and I) do this, we weaken our addiction to success. We release the expectations that we have placed on ourselves and we release the expectations that we have placed on others. And in turn, we throw open the doors to the kind of soul-feeding freedom that we have been craving.
The second thought (and this will likely require a second blog post to go further) is this: define “success” differently. Success is not about achieving anything else but one thing – bringing our BEING and DOING into full alignment. In that order. Decide who we want to be, and do what takes us in that direction.
Here is where it gets tricky.
Deciding who we want to be requires deep thought and self-awareness. We should not become anything other than the best version of ourselves (as opposed to becoming a clone of someone else or becoming a false ideal). However, how many of us even have a clue of what that person looks like?
Candidly, we all know the worst version of ourselves. And we likely shudder to even think of those flaws. But can we remember the best version of ourselves, when we behaved in a way that reflected our true potential? Now, take it one step further. Can we imagine taking that picture and making it even better? This is who we want to be.
With that clarity, we then must put it into action. We must bring it to life. How do we do that? We must find the short-term and medium-term achievements that will reflect the journey we are committed to. In other words, we need to ask ourselves the two-pronged question of what do we need to achieve this week/month (short-term) to deliver this year’s goal (medium-term)? Then, we must exercise the discipline of now. The discipline of this immediate moment. And take that single step toward the direction of our desired doing. And, ultimately, the direction of our desired being.
So, let me ask you again… Who are your trying to become? And what are you doing about it? I propose that these answers are your true definition of success. Everything else is at best a distraction. At worst, everything else is an effort that generates waste – and eventually generates failure.
Ponder that for a moment…
As always, if this post resonated with you, please reach out to me directly. We are in this together.
I mua. Onward and upward.
PS Note that I have changed my email for contact (it is now Tim@TimOhai.com). If you keep track of such things, please update your information accordingly. Mahalo.
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