What does it mean to be “successful”? I have long thought that success is an unobtainable nebulous thing that I was destined to never experience. Why never, you ask?
I could not pinpoint the exact source of the messages, likely it came from hundreds, if not thousands, of societal hints and nudges around what success is. As a child of the 70’s I heard pretty clear messages about what success looked like:
- Hitting the books – getting an education is important and you are only truly successful if have a formal post-secondary education. And God-willing at 18, you had the exact knowledge of what you wanted to be/do in life and were able to pursue an education in said career choice. Sounds pretty good to me.
- Climbing the corporate ladder – in the workplace I think the most prevalent message I heard was that success has a direct correlation to how high you move up the proverbial corporate ladder. Makes sense.
- Raising little humans – if you are raising a family, you are successful. It is one of life’s most amazing accomplishments and from what I can see one of the hardest jobs out there – which by the way, there is no formal education to prepare you or no corporate title that you can delegate diaper changing to. Raising an actual human – Wow!
I will never doubt that these are indeed yardsticks for success.
But if this is the only truth, I am a dismal failure. I’ve completely failed at life. Yet I do not feel like a total failure, so there must be more. Let’s explore three things I’ve learned around what success has looked like in my own life:
- The bumpy, definitely not a straight line, career path – moved to a ski town when I was 18, partied and ski-bummed for a good portion of my 20’s, worked a bunch of different jobs, a few false start career moves, and finally at 30 went to a local college and got a diploma. I love that I tried out several different jobs in my 20’s and spent a lot of time exploring what I liked and did not like. All of it served to bring me where I am today. I love the work I am currently doing complete with all the bumps and bruises along the way. I feel happy. This must be success.
- It takes a village – I don’t have kids. It just never happened. But I have an amazing community-family. I have nieces and nephews that light up my life. I have a husband whose kids are wonderful humans. I have friends that lift me up with their love, grace, and uniqueness. I have a network of people that inspire me. I have a broad family tree – deep roots of life sustaining energy. I have an amazing husband that ticks every box. Oh, and I am a fur-baby mama! My cup is full. This must be success.
- It’s a great day to be alive – thank you, Travis Tritt. I know how lucky I am to live where I do. I have a mountain literally in my backyard. I hear birds chirping every morning. I feel safe. My husband and I have a modest house that, well, feels like home. In five minutes, I can be in the forest breathing in the deep mossy air. And life is happening – there are ups and downs; white-water-hang-on-for-your-dear-life one day and clear smooth sailing the next. I get knocked down, I stand up, sometimes with shaky legs, dust myself off and keep going. I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is life in its perfect messiness. I love it. This must be success.
What about you? How would you define success in your own life?
“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” ~ Arthur Ashe