Wednesday, January 16

Please Define Success

babbling brook
I have always been the sort to have great ambitions and ideas, goals and dreams, but find myself falling short of my lofty visions. I have dealt with this over the years by telling myself that it was ok to fall short because working toward something and falling short was far better than giving up on conjuring the plans which propel me into some sort of action that I might otherwise spend watching HGTV.

I have friends and family ask “Wait, didn’t you go to nursing school? Aren’t you a nurse” So what did you end up majoring in that time? and the massage therapy? Do you still do that? Didn’t you used to write stuff? Hey, I thought you worked in healthcare? Really, you did fundraising for a non-profit? How did I miss that?”.
I know it doesn’t make sense to everyone but all of my peripatetic ventures, vocational and educational, have given me a unique (and yes, related) set of skills that are woven into the fabric of who I am as well as what I can do.

I also have experienced, that life cares little that I just enrolled full time in school and got settled half-way across the country. A call home to care for a dying mom trumps all best-laid plans. So does an inner call to take care of my own broken spirit, heart, or physical body. To forge ahead with the planned agenda when other things in life cry for my attention would be foolish. So, I am glad that I know when to create a change in plans.

To my credit, I have become a better life-editor. I am interested in a lot of things, so I have learned to say no to many enticing but extraneous ventures, so that I can say yes to the things that I value most. Life also loves to give you exactly what you thought you wanted so that you can discover that you didn’t really want that. Much self- knowledge has been gained in my chase after what I thought I wanted and found at the end of the chase, it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be and I didn’t want it after all. Narrowing the path by crossing some things off the list has been important.

One of my most favorite tools to working all this out has been the book “The War of Art”, which I wrote about previously here. I have tons of resistance, and that little book helps me laugh at it, give it the finger , and do my work. Last year a group of women invited me to study the “Success Principles” which was a powerful experiment in manifesting our truest desires in our lives, collectively. But I can assure it wasn’t airy-fairy crystal rubbing magic…we practiced intentional thinking followed by action and prepared ourselves for results. The whole process reminded me of the old proverb “if you’re praying for potatoes, you better have a hoe in your hand”.

So, my basic personal philosophy of success for quite some time has been: “success through goal achievement”. I have been working out my barriers, internal and external, in a myriad of ways, but that basic principle has remained unchanged.

Until yesterday. I read something that made me re-think my whole way of thinking about success. I have had some disconnected thoughts about the perils of goal-seeking, but I just chalked them up to resistance and moved on. But this idea, seemingly contrary to the principles I have staked my personal and professional development on, spoke to me. It made perfect sense. It explained why I felt so stuck sometimes and it explained how I could get un-stuck.

I intend to write more about this in coming weeks but here is a little nugget to chew on for now (from The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great):
• Life’s too short.
• Control is an illusion.
• Expectations lead to misery.
• Great expectations lead to great misery.
• Achievement creates expectations.
• The law of diminishing returns applies everywhere.
• Perfect is the enemy of good.
• The tallest blade of grass is the surest to be cut.
• Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder.

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