I have been thinking about success lately, determined to un-thread the true meaning of success. I have also been thinking about moments in my life that are ordinary and moments that are extraordinary.
Our lives are a constant stream of news – people’s successes, people’s failures and anything else that is so called ‘newsworthy'. I can’t help but wonder if there is any room for the ordinary any more, for the human who loves to paint but is far from becoming the next Picasso, who will be a good and honest person however won’t set the world on fire.
In modern society, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life. Everywhere we turn we hear inspiring words such as “you are exceptional, you deserve to shine” and so forth. But why do we need to be ‘exceptional’? Why isn’t ‘normal’ enough – and why can’t we just relax into life and simply enjoy the more ordinary things? The small and simple things that bring us great pleasure.
Have we become a society that has grown to love accolade over genuine achievement? Are we on a constant search for ‘our destiny or our path’? The notion of being special is in our blood; however it is this very notion that can let us down. There is no denying that life is filled with struggles and battles, I am not saying that we should aim lower, however I am gently suggesting maybe we should switch our perspective and redefine our meaning of success.
I want you to take a moment and picture someone who you think is successful. What are the characteristics that come to mind? Is it money, power, acknowledgement, beauty, athletic success and so forth?
Or is it someone who is humble, compassionate, living out their own passions and living a life of authenticity and integrity?
On the surface you may think money, power, fame, acknowledgement and beauty brings about success and happiness. However, truth be told there is nothing outside yourself that can bring you happiness and contentment. Inner peace can only ever be obtained from within, by choosing to live with passion, compassion, humility, authenticity and integrity. The more you chase the superficial satisfactions from outside yourself the more you distant yourself from your true purpose and finding true success.
Unfortunately, mainstream society has developed a narrow view of success. However, someone who chooses to live a life with substance and meaning is aware of this and they make a conscious effort to steer away from mainstream opinions. Instead they choose to be masters and weavers, knowing that the pursuit of success is an ever ending almost. They realise that mastering is in the journey not the destination.
How do we go back to the idea that ordinary can be extraordinary? How do we remind ourselves that life doesn’t have to be all about public recognition and accolades, but can be more about our experiences?
It’s a value that you have to mindfully choose again and again. Take moments to breathe and bring your awareness to the present moment, feel the now with all your senses and simply ‘just be’. You were not put on this planet to ‘be the best’ but to enjoy the process of ‘just being’. To swim in a lake on a hot day or walk with a friend or make a salad with the veggies you grew in your backyard.
It takes a lot of inner work to finally reach a point where you realise that self-worth and happiness comes from within. I call it the 'shift' and when it happens you can't mistake it - it literally feels like your whole world has permanently shifted.
Ordinary has a bad rap, and so does settling. There is great beauty to be found in cultivating an appreciation for what we already have.
People are so hungry for success that they forget to spend their precious moments doing the simple and ordinary things that bring them pleasure, the simple things that centre them and bring them home.
My message isn’t to settle for a life that you are not happy with, but instead follow your passions with all your heart, aspire to goals because they are important to you, not because you want to impress society.
Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you - Quoted from Mr. McCullough in his You Are Not Special Commencement Speech at Wellesley High School
Redefine Success: Tips to keep you on a gentler and authentic path of success
- Don’t let yourself become engulfed in snobbery: We live in a society where often the first thing we ask each other ‘what do you do for a living’, then many of us (not all of us), come to our own conclusion of a person with what they do or what they have become. Often, people that live the most simplest and ordinary of lives have some of the greatest values and wisdom to offer the world – never forget that.
- Realise that social hierarchy and material goods are worthless: Success can’t be measured in anything outside of you, for true success comes from the heart. It has little to do with what others think of you or what you own, and more about a deep sense of fulfilment because you know you got to your happy place in a gentle and authentic way. It is a deep knowing within that you have achieved something wonderful and authentic without having to cheat, lie, bribe, be unauthentic or trample on others in the process.
- Don’t Compare: Comparison is pointless, it gets you nowhere. Never make the mistake of measuring your life against what other people have achieved. Maybe you don’t have a college degree like your friends, maybe you don’t make as much money as your sister, maybe most of your friends are married and you are still single. When you measure and compare your life based on what other people around you have achieved, you become disappointed, feel undervalued and lose your focus. You are on your own journey, so hold that thought close to your heart for when comparison next sneeks its way into your headspace.
- Realise you can’t have it all: You can’t have it all, well not in societies definitions of ‘having it all’. There will always be challenges, struggles and failures. You see we can’t be successful at everything, for there is always going to be an element where we are not succeeding. If you think you have it all or have ‘finally made it’ – then that is a very dangerous place to be – for you can always fall. However you can have it all in another sense, by realising the value of what you currently have and where you currently are.
- Make sure you own your own ideas of success: Be the author of your own ambition. Don’t do something because society says that it comes highly respected – do it because you respect it. It’s also ok not to have an ambitious streak and instead just settle to be an active participate in the ebb and flow of life.
- Value the gift of a near win: Success and mastery is a constant pursuit – for you never arrive. The true pursuit of mastery is an ever ending almost, where the focus is on the journey not the destination. We thrive when we stay on our leading edge, when we haven’t done it all but have more to do. Masters know that there is no perfect end and they are in constant pursuit for new things, new ways, new experiences and new ways of thinking.
- Embrace failure: Every successful person knows that you have to be willing to fail in order to succeed. Success comes to you when you learn to fail over and over again and never lose your enthusiasm. Take failure as a stepping stone, look at it as an opportunity to get better and find better ways to do things. Eventually, through enough failures, you will reach a point where you have the wisdom to get yourself to where you want to be.
Failing is a sign that you have taken on a challenge which will make you grow stronger, failing is a sign that your living your life to the fullest and taking risks, and failing is the only way you can become better. So next time you fail, don’t let yourself give up and go off the path, try again, do it different and do it better. Eventually you will find a way to succeed.
- Serve others not your ego: While it is important to look after yourself first, it is crucially important to put others before your ego. Do things for people because it is the right thing to do – not because you will get something out of it. True character is shown when you (quietly and without a fuss) do something for another who you know will never be able to return the favour.
- Always bring yourself back home: Find that thing that you love more than yourself, and dedicate your life to that thing. You see both failure and success have the ability to catapult your psyche into deep depths of instability. It is important to constantly bring yourself back to that neutral and balanced place. Bring yourself home by doing that one thing you love more than your ego. Watch this inspiring Ted Talk By Elizabeth Gilbert