In this issue ~~
Success is something a lot of us think about a lot of the time. We either have it or we don't (or at least we see it that way). If we have it, we want more. And if we don't, we wonder why. Certainly, there are issues that may block our success, but we also need to look at how much success we really want and how we want it.
Some of us may be looking for success in the wrong place. I recently heard a statistic that 80% of people are mis-employed -- in the wrong job. The media bombards us with messages about what success is supposed to be, and it's easy to make choices based on those messages. If your heart isn't in it, though, how much effort will you put into becoming more successful? Even if you manage to do it for awhile, at some point, you'll hit a wall. And success at something that you don't enjoy isn't success at all.
We may feel unworthy of our success. In his book, Lucky Man, actor Michael J. Fox talks about how, when success hit for him so quickly, he feared that people would discover he was still this kid from Canada, faking his way. We become afraid that success will require more of us than we're capable of producing. And at the same time, we fear losing it.
We may fear the demands success places on us and feel we can't keep it up. When we succeed at something, people expect that we will surpass ourselves with even greater successes, and our superiors or our public may demand that of us. Some people have great success early in their lives – I had a college friend who had been a successful child actor and felt like a has-been at 18 (he went on to success in other areas). In David Auburn's play Proof, the main character talks about how most mathematicians make their greatest discoveries in their 20s. Other people have a great success later in life, but don't feel they have the time or energy to do it again. It becomes important to find other ways to define success for yourself (we'll do that soon).
We may feel undeserving of our success and all that comes with it. Most of us have been trained to expect the worst, or feel guilty when good things happen for us, and when things go well, we wait for the other shoe to drop. In Arthur Miller's play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, the protagonist continually finds himself falling into good luck. Ironically, one of the endings Miller initially contemplated was the hero committing suicide because he felt he was at the mercy of his luck, with no control over how and when it happened. Happily, he chose instead to have our hero pulls himself out of a jam with his own foresight, thereby restoring some sense of order and control to his world and the ability to accept his good luck.
We may feel comfortable with our current position in life and uncomfortable with the changes that success will bring about. We fear that if we're successful, the people that care about us will become jealous and reject us or that we'll leave them behind. We may have relationships based on commiserating about our lack of success, and if we succeed, those relationships will likely end. We're afraid that success will change our lives too much or too fast, and we'll be left alone.
So much for the bad news. Now, on to the good. Success comes in a lot of shapes and sizes, and there are ways we can prepare ourselves for it and make it a positive experience.
Decide for yourself what success means to you; it's a very individual thing. Having all the trappings of success is empty if it doesn't feel good inside. And remember that success is a quality, not a quantity. It's about how it makes you feel inside.
Having success on your own terms doesn't mean it will always
be smooth sailing, but when you're following your heart, facing
the challenges will feel exhilarating and worth the effort.
To see if a particular activity feels good to you (and is, therefore, a candidate for positive success), get quiet and relaxed, then think about that activity. How does your body feel? Do you feel open and excited, or tense and constricted? If it's the latter, you might want to think more deeply about whether this is something you want to pursue further.
"That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it, who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had."
"Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral. The size of the project means little in art, beyond the money matter. It is the quality of the character that really counts."
"Trying to do well and trying to beat others are two different things. Excellence and victory are conceptually distinct . . . and are experienced differently."
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."
(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)
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