In a bustling society driven by technology and to-do lists, we tend to define our successes by how hard we work, what we have to show for it and what our next steps look like. For every individual, our successes are highly diverse and cover our careers and professional life, but also our love life, family life, health, finances, creative sides and so much more.
One of many things that all areas of success have in common is that they don’t achieve themselves. They don’t keep working after we stop (usually); they’re rarely handed to us; they quite often bring us to experience the lowest points in our life and drive us to the utmost emotional extremes. Realistically, if progress were so easy, we wouldn’t be tested in the ways we are throughout these long journeys that tend to last a lifetime. They require our full attention to many moving parts, our dedication to even the smallest of details and continuous persistence.
That being said, it can be easy to experience partial or artificial success and lose sight of the larger picture. In the past, I tended to define my own personal successes in terms of objective and countable things-how many emails I went through a day, how many new clients I brought in each week, how many chores I did during the weekend, how many coupons I used during my last shopping trip and what I could afford based on how my income and budget changed.
While all of these things may seem like valuable and worthy successes (and I don’t want to take their value away at all), I slowly began to realize they didn’t necessarily make up the bigger and more beautiful landscape that was my work and personal life. These small pieces, while definitely holding merit, weren’t the larger and more significant lesson the universe was trying to show me. This was not only eye-opening for me, but a little bit daunting as I soon started questioning a lot of my to-do’s, my daily routines and all of the other incredibly organized processes I have set up in my life-the things I attributed to helping me achieve my daily and monthly successes. I took some time to acknowledge what my bigger successes really looked like and internalize what they were trying to teach me; the small stuff really painted a bigger and certainly more beautiful picture. These are just a few examples (as I find myself discovering more each day)…
Perceived success: Clearing out my emails
Real success: Learning to delegate and acknowledging I could pass work off to other people when it was out of my realm. It’s ok to not know how to do something and/or say no when it becomes too much. Additionally, it was OK to not have them all cleared out constantly. I needed to learn to deal with that stress and not let it taper into my evenings with family when it was time to disconnect.
Perceived success: Cleaning my entire house, sometimes in record time!
Real success: Genuinely enjoying my clean space as a place to love my family, create new memories and truly feel grateful for having a house TO clean.
Perceived success: Food prepping my meals for the week
Real success: Sacrificing some more of my time to cook and eat WITH my loved ones, rather than obsessing over placing everything in storage containers in the right portions. While this is definitely an important part of staying healthy on a busy schedule, and I still do this to some extent, what’s more important is slowing down to observe the process of cooking and eating as a family and as something nurturing and healing. Eating is too often mistaken for a chore or an on-the-go task rather than as a way to connect and nourish.
Perceived success: Getting new clients
Real success: Learning some serious truths about my existing business. Was I taking care of my existing clients in a way that made them happy with my services? Was I learning to accept and let go of clients that no longer wanted to work with me? With loss comes growth and that balance made and continues to make me a well-rounded business owner and a more down to earth self-employed person. I don’t want to imply that getting new clients or business growth are not something to strive for, but I want to stress that there is something more to gain here, which is the whole premise of this article.
It’s great to acknowledge all of the things we accomplish in a day, week, month or year. It’s important that we acknowledge that there’s a lot going on and that we have the capability of prioritizing and making stuff happen.
What’s more important however, and the lesson I’m learning each day, is that when we are able to step back and disconnect, we can then really appreciate all of the small things for what they lead up to. Don’t measure your successes by your cars and boats-think about the people you have to ride around with.
Rather than dwelling on the amount of money you donate to charity, think about how you can give your time and knowledge to those who need it. Here’s to all of the things that make us thrive, move us forward and bring us happiness.