I sat on the couch to scroll through my Facebook feed. I stumbled upon one of those slick motivational talks from a supposed business guru. The words rolled of her tongue like she’d been rehearsing for months.
It looked, shiny, sharp and sort of fake.
The longer I watched the more I fell for the message. I went cross-eyed as I entered a trance-like state. Whatever joy I had diminished quickly, and with every second that went by, the more I felt depressed.
I had fallen for it. Again.
Why can’t I be that successful I’d tell myself. Why can’t I be as clean-cut and professional as her I pondered. When will I make the kind of money she talks about I thought as jealousy erupted.
In a matter of moments, I’d gone from confident to afraid. My whole demeanour was shot and I was deflated.
My envy was met with inflamed darts of negativity, lies, and half-truths designed to keep me down.
Success, I thought, was never going to be part of my future.
– – –
There is a certain kind of redemption our culture needs to capture. Mums and dads, children and grandchildren, uncles and aunties the world over, need to be freed from the chains of unworthiness, perfection and success.
I realised in that moment of dread as I watched her story of success, that my definition of success has been created, not through my own lens and value base, but through the culture in which I’m part of.
I had fallen into the trap and joined the competitive rat race on the road to success.
When you mix together our need to have the approval of others, to publicly tell every one of our achievements, and to have a label that gives us street-cred, a disaster is ominous.
This constant desire for success is making us sick. It’s a story of fakery and falsehoods we have been sold. But we’ve fallen for it and embraced it, as the road to success gets crowded with more lost and wayward people.
Success has a way of sucking us in.
It has a way of telling us half-truths with made up facts about what it takes for our lives to mean something.
It has a way of telling us that if we just earn enough, climb the right corporate ladder, embrace the right fitness regime, earn the right position in the community and have the nicest house, with the biggest car in the street – then, and only then – will we be successful.
Oh, what a sad, sad story of success we have when that’s the way we measure it.
– – –
As I was watching the Facebook video on the couch that day, something else was happening behind me.
They were sitting quietly.
They were mumbling words to their favourite song.
They didn’t have a single care in the world.
In her sweet 5-year-old way, she came up to me, gave me a hug and whispered truths that cut deep into my heart. I don’t know if she could sense I was struggling or if the angels helped align the universe, but in that moment she broke me out of my sorrow, out of my depressed state, and moved me to a place of thankfulness.
She knows what true, real and meaningful success is, mostly because she hasn’t been corrupted with a pseudo definition of success like the rest of us.
The beauty of childhood knows a secret most of us would be well to understand and embrace.
There is no striving for her. There is no Facebook.
There is no comparison with the Jones’s next door.
There is no deep desire to prove to the people around her how awesome she is. She is being her, and that is enough.
A fresh, redefined definition of success
Success is not about the size of your bank account, the title on your work desk or even the good looks of your girlfriend. Success is the internal heart attitude to live a quiet, simple life, focused on the joy set before you and utilising the gifts inside you.
Success for me now is the high calling to steward the gifts I have been given. To love my family and friends well. To know in my heart of hearts that no money, fame, sex or approval from others will ever fill the empty void left by the lure of success through plastic Facebook guru’s.
True success now is about having a deep inner peace and contentment that all is well in the world. That my little patch is being cared for and I’m leaving some type of mark on the people around me.
Success comes to us when we go in search of a life in service to others.
Success finds us when we focus on making good, moral, ethical and value based decisions – decisions that we know are right for us.
Success has a way of rewarding us, when we do the right thing by our family and our community.
Success is having your kids speak with you when you’re 75.
Success is having enough money in the bank to live generously.
Success is having health in your bones and energy in your spirit.
Feeling the pain of not keeping up with the speed of society can either be debilitating or incredibly transformative. When we take the time to sit in the quiet and remind ourselves of what truly matters, we will realise that the smaller day-to-day moments we keep rushing from are actually the moments we desire the most.
Define success through the grid of your own peace, contentment, use of gifts and ability to love others well.
In doing so, you will shun the half-baked version of success our culture sells, and always be successful in the eyes of those who matter most: yours.