I’ve been feeling it for some time now. More days than not. I’ve begun some big, scary, forever-life-altering kind of work over the last year or so. And the culmination of said work (that really began in childhood and will continue indefinitely) is my birthright, the big ‘S’—no, not that one—success.
But what does success mean anyway?
I’ve driven myself in circles trying to determine what success is or more appropriately, what is success to me?
It used to mean getting into and graduating from a top-tier school. Done. Guess what? Didn’t make me happy. In fact, some of my most painful moments occurred during my college days and shortly thereafter.
Then it meant having the great job and the great apartment. I’ve had both, and while both provide their comforts, neither created more than momentary, monetarily based contentment.
Then it meant travel and adventure and blissful abandonment. And that was all well and good, for a while.
So if this stuff, the stuff I grew up learning to rely hasn’t worked, what will?
More recently I’ve begun to truly question my beliefs, you know those innocuous blueprints we all carry around, pretending not to be bothered by, when in facts it’s these very blueprints that are holding us back and keeping us small.
You have them too? Cool.
What I’ve come to see, by slowly untangling these blueprints from their true sources (the media, my parents, peers, teachers, etc) is that I reached a point where I stopped thinking for myself. Perhaps it happened when I was five or 15 or 25, I don’t know.
But it became a problem when I began to see my actions were all about pleasing the “other” and not at all tied into what works for me. I was so busy trying to be good enough for everyone else that I stopped doing the things that are good for me.
So what did I do?
First, I had to get real clear about my old, outdated and limiting beliefs. I wrote them down and everything. I came to see which ones were working for me and which weren’t.
In this process, I’ve come to realize certain beliefs have to be questioned on an almost daily basis, while others have vanished with a simple soulful glance.
I’ve heard it said: our beliefs create our thoughts; our thoughts create our speech; our speech creates our actions and our actions create our lives. So if you want a different life, start adopting different beliefs.
Of course it’s not as simple as this. And it is.
Start where you are.
Here’s an example of one belief that I unconsciously held growing up but have been able to course-correct in adulthood.
Littering every once in a while is no big deal and we certainly needn’t worry ourselves with radical acts like recycling.
Did I mention I’m from Texas?
With just a bit of education though (I school myself on a regular basis and suggest you do the same), I was able to see the fallacy in this thinking, for me. I came to the conclusion that I was acting out of a bogus belief.
It stopped serving me and it never served the planet, so I was able to give it up.
These days, I’m the constant canvas-toter with a garage that’s being used almost exclusively as a storage compartment for recycled items. And my new belief would be something like this:
Every act of kindness toward the planet counts. It’s not only my right, nor my karmic duty but my privilege to do my share to leave this planet looking a little better than I found it.
Other beliefs haven’t budged so easily and have required a little more unearthing.
A particularly pesky one of mine: Success means working a 9-5 and having a 401K and a boss and a soul crushing commute everyday. In other words, I have to sell out at some point in order to achieve conventional “success.”
It’s a belief that began in childhood and, oddly enough, propagated itself during a motivational speech directed to my national honor society comrades and I during high school. The speaker guy, whomever he was, was talking about success and flat-out declared it a fact that only about 15% of us teenagers would go on to achieve true success.
I remember being both insulted and confused.
For one, who was this guy (who’d never met a single one of us) to say how many of us were capable of success? Worse yet, what was his version of success that kept it so special and impenetrable?
Looking back, I imagine he meant financial success of a certain magnitude—six-figures or more maybe—I have no idea, nor do I care.
All I knew is it didn’t fit.
The idea that financial success=life success has never been worked for me nor been consistent with my core identity (the divine me that never expires or gets a flat tire). But I held on to it anyway. I subjected myself to one ill-fitting job after another, naively hoping the next one would be right. Surely, it was me that was the problem.
In reality, I was the problem. Sort of.
I was holding myself up to this belief and this definition of success that belonged entirely to someone else. At no point had I asked myself what success meant to me, you know the one actually attaining it.
As soon as I did, things began to shift. Defining success in my own terms has been one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done.
And that whole re-define your beliefs, re-define your life thing. Yeah, it’s true. I’ve haven’t just had a couple of light-bulb moments, my whole world has been bathed in light: Electric, beautiful, stuff of dreams type light.
And my belief today is this—success is showing up for life and all its little details on a daily basis. It’s keeping a pure mind and a kind heart. It’s loving others as well as myself and understanding that forgiveness is paramount to love.
Success is being unapologetically, authentically me and serving others in the uniquely wonderful way that only I can.
Success is being lit up.
Success is joy.
Success is a choice and today, success is mine.